alienate, antagonize

  By LAWRENCE FELLOWS  To alienate is to estrange, to divert something, as one person’s affection might be turned away from another. To antagonize someone is to rub him the wrong way, to provoke his hostility in any number of ways – by your selfishness or loudness, the clothes you wear, the look you give […]

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credible, creditable, credulous

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS If you want your newspaper to stay creditable in an election campaign, you’re expecting a lot. Creditable means deserving of praise. Who feels like praising a newspaper in the heat of an election campaign? Credible, however, means worthy of belief, and that’s enough to make a newspaper a force in any election. […]

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voyeur, voyageur

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS A voyeur is a peeping tom, a person who derives satisfaction from secretly watching others, especially when they are doing something that is nobody else’s business. A voyageur is a traveler. In Canada, he is a woodsman or boatman who takes supplies from trading posts to trappers in the backwoods, and returns […]

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custom, habit

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS A custom is a social convention, whether that be a style of dress or an established way of behavior typical of a social group or a country or a particular period of time. While a custom is followed by a whole group, a habit is acquired by an individual, whether voluntarily or […]

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want, wish

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS Want and wish both suggest a longing for something, although want often suggests a stronger sense of immediacy and wish connotes a more remote feeling. Ask any figure-conscious person who wishes to stay thin, but still wants the chocolate that’s been offered.

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arbiter, arbitrator, mediator

  By DICK CAVELLI The three titles are often used interchangeably by the media, but there are clear differences among them. The arbiter, for example, is a chosen or appointed judge or umpire; an absolute and final judge. An arbitrator is a person chosen by agreement of parties to decide a dispute between them, and […]

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peak, peek, pique

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS A peak is a high point. For a dog, it could be a pat on the head or a steak bone after dinner. In Shakespeare’s time, peak could also mean to waste away, as in “Macbeth:” …dwindle, peak and pine. A peek is a brief or furtive look, a look like one […]

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abbreviate, abridge

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS To abbreviate a thing is to reduce it or make it smaller, as a word might be shortened by leaving letters out, so that the whole thing can still be recognized in the smaller version. To abridge a thing is to reduce or condense it, as a report might be expressed in […]

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imperial, imperious

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS An imperial person is an emperor or an empress, or behaves like one. Imperious means dictatorial, domineering, bossy. You don’t have to be an emperor to have an imperial manner. Neither do you have to be an emperor to be imperious, but sometimes it helps.

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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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