Tag Archives: frequently misused words

Hilarious or Hysterical?

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As I’ve written many times before, all languages change over time because of common usage. I’m sure you often hear people use the word hysterical to refer to something funny. That is common usage and will, in time, become a standard definition. For now, though, hysterical refers to uncontrolled and extreme emotion. Picture an audience of teenage girls in the 1960s seeing the Beatles: they were hysterical with excitement.

Hilarious simply means something extremely funny: I find most Mel Brooks movies hilarious. However, I manage not to become hysterical.

 

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Is it Raining Continually or Continuously?

This is a repost from over two-and-a-half years ago—when we had a little rain in Southern California. We are now entering our sixth year of drought (but remember, climate change is, ahem, a hoax). A reader asked me to cover these two words, which I had done in February 2014. Don’t forget to use the search box on my blog to see if I’ve already written about the topic you’re wondering about.

 

Finally, finally, we have had measurable rain in Southern California. Until this storm began last night, we had just a little over an inch of rain this entire season, which began last July. Normal rainfall for this period is 11 inches. We who live here want and need more—a lot more. But do we want it to rain continuously or continually?

It’s easy to get these two words confused. CONTINUOUSLY means without interruption, whereas CONTINUALLY means continuing but sporadically, intermittently. The former would be a problem, as the hillsides are so dry that a deep soaking all at once would lead to the landslides you read about here. On-and-off rain, continual rain, would allow the water to sink in without causing erosion. A way to remember the difference between these two words might be to notice that CONTINUOUS has an S, and that, unfortunately, stands for slides. Think continual rain for us here in this parched land.

Yes, the climate is changing rapidly, a cause of concern for all.

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My Feelings Exactly. Literally!

As always, thank you, Brian B.

 

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More Similar but Different Words

imagesDo any of these confuse you? I hope this list will help.

DEMURE—shy, reserved, modest: The young woman’s dress and demure behavior led one to think she might be a Quaker or Amish. (pronounced duhMYOOR)

DEMUR—the action of showing reluctance or doubts, hesitating or objecting: Francine thought she might accept her boss’ offer, but something about his attitude caused her to demur. (pronounced duhMUR)

PORE (v.)—to read or study carefully, to be absorbed in an activity: Benjamin, an avid golfer, pored over every golf magazine and article he could find.

POUR—what you do with a liquid and/or your feelings: Stephen poured a full glass of Burgundy and then poured out his feelings to his girlfriend.

PEAK—the pointed summit of a mountain; the point of highest activity; the pointed part of a shape, such as the peaks in beaten egg whites: In the baking competition at the top of Pike’s Peak, Sandra found herself in a peak of frenzy while beating 10 egg whites into stiff peaks for her famous French macarons.

PEEK—to look quickly or sneakily: Sandra’s competitors sneaked peeks at her while she whipped those egg whites.

PIQUE—to stimulate curiosity or interest: Sandra’s baking expertise piqued intense interest in all her competitors.

AISLE—a passageway between rows of seats or between shelves in supermarkets or other stores; what the wedding party walks down: A store the size of Costco contains dozens of aisles for food and dry goods. (Has anyone gotten married in an aisle at Costco? Probably.)

ISLE—an island. Robinson Crusoe lived on an isle; England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland are called the British Isles.

Remember, all these are words; your spellchecker won’t know if you’ve used the wrong one by accident. It’s up to you to proofread carefully.

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Six Frequently Misused Words

See If you’ve been using any of these words incorrectly: 1. Peruse Incorrect: to skim over reading material Correct: to review carefully 2. Compelled Incorrect: to feel as if you need to do something Correct: to be forced to do something 3. Bemused Incorrect: amused Correct: confused 4. Travesty Incorrect: a tragedy or unfortunate event Correct: a parody or mockery 5. Ironic Incorrect: a funny coincidence Correct: not what you’d expect 6. Penultimate Incorrect: the last Correct: next to last

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