A Concatenation of Confusables

In my reading, I frequently encounter misused and confused words. Here are five recent sightings, most from major newspapers:

  • “Anyone who passes even feint praise on anything containing Adam Sandler…”

The writer means faint praise — not very much. A feint is a deceptive or diversionary action.

  • “Now, watching a young and inexperienced American president appear to waiver on his commitment….”

This is a common mix-up. To be indecisive is to waver. A waiver is a relinquishment of a right or claim.

  • “Unaware of the possibility of evoking Section 1732, I set up a private transfer treaty to move him to an American prison.”

To evoke means to summon or call to mind. The correct word in this context is invoke, to cite as justification.

  • “If pot were legal, the beer industry would loose money.”

The distinction should be obvious. But an amazing number of people confuse lose, to mislay, with loose, the antonym of tight.

  • “[When I studied foreign languages,] absurdity acted as the impotence for comprehension and eventual memorization.”

Somehow, the desired word impetus, meaning stimulus, morphed into impotence. My guess is that this was the result of an unintended Microsoft Word “auto-correction.” Computers are useful tools but they can also create new problems. There’s no substitute for human intelligence, common sense, and proofreading.

[Ed Note: For more than three decades, Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant. He is author of The Versatile Freelancer, an e-book that shows writers and other creative professionals how to diversify their careers into speaking, consulting, training, and critiquing.]

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