read, peruse

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS To read has many meanings, one of which is to get the drift of a message by interpreting written or printed words. Its roots are in the Old English raedan, which was the word used for figuring out the mystic sense of runes scratched in the sand or on crude boards. The word […]

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fetch, fetching

  By LAWRENCE FELLOWS To fetch is to go after something and bring it back. Fetching is not quite the same word, although both come to us from variations of the Old English fetian and faet, for “step” and “foot.” Fetching used to mean contriving or crafty. It’s not too far-fetched to accept that fetching, […]

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allocate, allot

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS To allocate something is to set it aside for a specific purpose. You can be allocated a parking space. To allot something is to give it, but with an understanding that it is being shared. If you are allotted five minutes to make a speech, you’re probably having to share the time […]

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adopt, adapt, adept

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS You can adopt a position, an amendment or a child, which means you choose it, embrace it or espouse it, or take it as your own. You can adapt yourself or something else to a particular situation by adjusting to it. An adept person is skilled or proficient, the sort who can […]

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founder, flounder

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS To flounder is to struggle awkwardly, to stumble helplessly, to flop about like a flounder out of water. If a horse founders, it may collapse from overwork, or get stuck in a bog. If a ship founders, it sinks. Don’t say, “The ship foundered and sank.” That’s redundant. If the ship foundered, […]

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occur, take place

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS Things occur when you least expect them, but take place by arrangement. Still, you can never be sure what might occur at a carefully arranged luncheon.

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regard, regards

By HAROLD LITTLEDALE It’s “Give my regards to Broadway” but “in regard (no s) to your letter of the 15th…” To regard is to look closely at someone or something. Regards are expressions of good feelings. My best regards to those who hold this critical distinction in the highest regard.

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duplicate, replicate

By HOWARD MUNCE These two words tend to overlap. Either of them will get your meaning across, but a trip to the dictionary will reveal how they can be fine-tuned. Somewhere along the line you may have dealt with carbon paper, copying machines or rubber stamps. All of them produce copies of an original. They […]

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indict, indite

  By LAWRENCE FELLOWS    Although both words have the same Latin root, dico, meaning to speak. and are pronounced the same, they have developed quite different meanings. To indict someone is to charge him with a crime, formally or in writing. To indite is to compose or write, usually something nice. In Shakespeare’s time, […]

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graduate, graduated

by LAWRENCE FELLOWS   You can say that you graduated from college, or that you were graduated from college, or that the college graduated you. The word comes from the Latin gradus, meaning a stop or a degree. If you made the grade, your college marked your progress by awarding you a degree. But unless […]

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