Saturday, September 13, 2008

More Confusable Vocabulary

It's been a bit since I went through some of the commonly confused terms. I've got a few laying around, waiting to be explained, but none that warrant a full post of their own. If you're looking for more, just check the versus page of this blog. For today, let's look at practicable versus practical, discomfort versus discomfit, and allude versus refer.

Practical versus Practicable

You can do something practicable. It is possible, viable, and doable. It may not, however, be practical.

Building a mechanism like those elaborate contraptions that cross rooms and use marbles and household objects to crack your eggs and drop your toast in the morning may be practicable, but they're a total waste of time and effort and, thus, are not practical. Describing something as practicable doesn't necessarily mean that it is a waste of time or money, but describing that same thing as practical means that it is not.

Discomfit versus Discomfort

Although discomfit grew out of the French word for defeat or destroy, writers and speakers more commonly use it today to say that someone has been confused or embarrassed, often through having been thwarted.

You may find yourself in discomfort, that is feeling uneasy or awkward, because of having been discomfited, but the word discomfort does not imply that sense of having lost a battle, whether physical or verbal.

Refer versus Allude

You can refer to a dictionary, a person, or an idea. But in order to do so, you must speak or write of it directly. If you wish to be more circumspect, you allude to something. An allusion is simply an indirect reference.

I think that's probably enough fascinating vocabulary for one day. Stay tuned for another round of "which means what", the next time I'm feeling so inspired. And if you've got a pair of words confounding you, please let me know.