Tag Archives: usage

Defuse vs. Diffuse

Lexical Vexations defuse v. to disarm a bomb or, more metaphorically, a tense situation. diffuse adj. spread or scattered over an area. Words in the Wild: There wouldn’t have been a diffuse pink mist in the room if the secret … Continue reading

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English Down Under

The past couple of weeks I’ve been wandering around in Sydney, Australia, so it seems fitting to make today’s post a roundup of fun and informative links about the ways that English happens down here. The Macquarie Dictionary and ABC … Continue reading

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Allude vs. Elude

Lexical Vexations allude v. to reference indirectly. elude v. to escape or evade. Words in the Wild: Whatever Prof. Dobson was alluding to in his mention of academic misconduct seemed to elude Sarah’s notice altogether—she continued to copy the contents … Continue reading

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Systematic vs. Systemic

Lexical Vexations systematic adj. following a devised plan in a methodological way. systemic adj. relating to a complex but cohesive system. This was originally a term specific to the body (ex. systemic infection) but is now used to describe other … Continue reading

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The Dead Hand (of Something or Other)

Twists & Turns of Phrase When something is held by the dead hand of something else, it is being prevented from attaining its goals. For instance, social progress might be held back by the dead hand of the status quo. … Continue reading

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Than vs. Then

Lexical Vexations Today’s post was requested by reader Elaine, who writes, “Please add ‘Then vs Than.’ Then refers to a time element; than is used in a comparative sense.” As you can see Elaine has a lockdown on this tricky … Continue reading

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Ordinance vs. Ordnance

Lexical Vexations ordinance n. a municipal regulation. ordnance n. military supplies, esp. artillery Word in the Wild: If you’re researching your next move and the city’s website keeps mentioning various municipal ordnances, you may want to consider moving somewhere a … Continue reading

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Eek vs. Eke

Lexical Vexations eek interj. an expression of fright or surprise. eke v. to extract with great toil; often used in the phrase eke out. Words in the Wild: Sharon opened her latest credit card statement with trepidation, and when she … Continue reading

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Riding Shotgun

Twists & Turns of Phrase If you’re riding shotgun these days, you’re probably in the front passenger seat of your buddy’s car. Origins: But most of the lore agrees that this term dates back to the Wild West and refers to … Continue reading

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