dictionaries

Lexical Vexations

disburse 1. v. to pay out (esp. from a fund), to pay (e.g., a bill).

disperse 1. v. to break up, to spread something over an area, to make something evaporate.

Words in the Wild: When the bank refused to disburse their life savings to the townsfolk, George had to call the police to disperse the angry mob.

I came across this lexical vexation in a recent edit: a crowd that was supposed to be dispersed was instead disbursed. These two words sound incredibly similar, making this an easy mistake to make, especially when you’re on a roll and your hands are typing as fast as you can think. And, as is so often the case, spell checkers won’t help you uncover one of these errors. But if you remember that the -burse in disburse is also found in bursary, that’ll help. (By the way, the -sperse in disperse goes way back to the Latin spargĕre, meaning to sprinkle.)

Still vexed? You can find a complete list of the Word Blog’s lexical vexations here.

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Egotheism

by Heather

Vest-Pocket Vocabulary

E’gotheism, n. deification of self.

Word in the Wild: A devout practitioner of egotheism, Danica insisted that not only she, but all of her coworkers, should get her birthday off as a paid holiday.

If enough of us got on board with the practice of egotheism, just think of all the paid holidays we could have!

You can find a complete listing of the Word Blog’s Vest-Pocket Vocabulary entries and learn more about where they come from here.

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Direption

by Heather

Vest-Pocket Vocabulary

Direp’tion, n. the art of plundering.

Word in the Wild: After an unknown co-worker stole his lunch out of the communal fridge for the third day running, Amir posted a snarky note demanding the sneak cease all direption.

I’m in favour of a world with a lot less sacking and pillaging, but I think there may still be room for this obsolete word to make a comeback. I, for one, am not above a little direption if it means I can get the first grilled cheese sandwich out of the pan. I guess I’m just plain direptitious.

You can find a complete listing of the Word Blog’s Vest-Pocket Vocabulary entries and learn more about where they come from here.

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Coarse vs. Course

by Heather

Lexical Vexations

coarse 1. adj. of a thick gauge; 2. adj. rough; 3. adj. unrefined, crude (of a person).

course 1. n. a path or route followed by people or things; 2. n. a series of classes on a topic of study; 3. n. an established procedure or approach to something; 4. n. a part of a meal; 5. v. to follow a path from one point to another.

Words in the Wild: The small terrier with the coarse hair ran along the course of the river in search of the main course of his evening meal. Meanwhile his coarse owner yelled at the man teaching the canine obedience course, demanding to know what course of action she should take to correct her coursing dog.

Still vexed? You can find a complete list of the Word Blog’s lexical vexations here.

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Chowter

by Heather

Vest-Pocket Vocabulary

Chow’ter, v. to grumble like a child or frog.

Word in the Wild: Amitav chowtered at his roommate after she accidentally put his 2014 tax slips through the shredder.

This fun word is obsolete, but let’s not let that stop us from using it anyway. Its etymology is unknown, though chowter is similar to chowre, and chowre may come from the word jower, and both of those words mean much the same thing as chowter. Enlightening, no?

You can find a complete listing of the Word Blog’s Vest-Pocket Vocabulary entries and learn more about where they come from here.

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Lexical Vexations

Palette and Pallet and Palatepalate 1. n . the top or roof of the mouth; 2. n. one’s sense of taste.

palette 1. n. an easily held flat surface on which an artist mixes paints; 2. n. a range of available colours.

pallet 1. n. a straw-filled mattress, a temporary (and often uncomfortable) bed; 2. n. a sturdy, usually wood, surface on which goods can be stored and transported.

Words in the Wild: Felix stood on a stack of pallets to reach the top corner of his canvas. He leaned too far and overbalanced, accidentally flicking paint from his palette onto his palate. Luckily the colour was a tasty lemon yellow.

I see these words sneaking into each others’ places fairly often. Sadly I don’t have any helpful mnemonics for you this time—the only way I know to keep these ones straight is to look them up if you’re not sure. If you have a trick for remembering these words, please let us know in the comments.

Still vexed? You can find a complete list of the Word Blog’s lexical vexations here.

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Babery

by Heather

Vest-Pocket Vocabulary

Ba’bery, n. playthings for a child.

Word in the Wild: Receiving nothing but blank looks from her nephews after she asked them to clear the living room of their babery and detritus, Celine tried again: “For pity’s sake, clean up your toys and junk!”

You can find a complete listing of the Word Blog’s Vest-Pocket Vocabulary entries and learn more about where they come from here.

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Apocrustic

by Heather

Vest-Pocket Vocabulary

Apocrust’ic, a. having a repelling power; astringent.

Word in the Wild: If you’re planning to make your own dandelion wine, do be sure the blossoms you pick haven’t been sprayed with pesticides, which will result in an unfortunately apocrustic vintage. Oh, and a poisonous one, too.

You can find a complete listing of the Word Blog’s Vest-Pocket Vocabulary entries and learn more about where they come from here.

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