Confusables Galore

Here’s another roundup of doppelganger words that are often confused. I encountered all of these misuses in my routine reading:

• “With flawless, crystalline hindsight, Henry laid out the causes of our present affliction, and prescribed remedies therefore.”

The word therefore means thus; the word wanted here is therefor.

• “There is no shortage of data to support the notion that walking is imminently healthy.”

Perhaps walking helps you right away, but I suspect the writer meant eminently.

• “Of course, even if you use a social phone number, your hidden digits are likely to be announced through caller ID to anyone you deign worthy of calling back.”

The verb deign means condescend; the writer probably meant deem.

• “The dissembling of Malcolm Forbes’s assets culminated in the 2004 sale of nine Faberge imperial Easter eggs for about $100 million.”

To dissemble is to deceive; the writer undoubtedly intended to convey the idea that the estate was broken up or disassembled.

• “There’s no other word than ‘groped’ for having one’s breasts palpitated in public.”

The verb palpitate means tremble or quiver; what the writer meant was palpate, to touch a part of the body, usually for medical purposes.

• “But concerns that the new terms gave Facebook too much leeway with the hoards of data shared by its 175 million users quickly spread….”

The word hoard is a noun or verb meaning stash or cache; a large number or amount is a horde.

[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 recently published by AWAI that shows writers and other creative professionals how to diversify their careers into speaking, consulting, training, and critiquing.]

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Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant for more than 30 years. He may be best known for his headline “Speak Spanish [French, German, etc.] Like a Diplomat!” This familiar series of ads sold spectacular numbers of recorded foreign language lessons for Audio-Forum, generating revenues that total in the tens of millions of dollars. In the process, the ad achieved the status of an industry classic. Don’s work is mentioned in three major college advertising textbooks, and examples of his promotions are cited in the books Million Dollar Mailings (1992) and World's Greatest Direct Mail Sales Letters (1996). In a column in Advertising Age, his name was included in a short list of direct-marketing “superstars.” He has a parallel career as a writer on language and wordplay. His celebration of spoonerisms, Cruel and Unusual Puns (Dell, 1991), received rave reviews and quickly went into a second printing. His second book was Acronymania (Dell, 1993). Recently, Don retired from full-time copywriting in order to focus on other interests, including his passion for “recreational linguistics.” He is at work on a new book in that genre. He is a regular contributor to the magazine Word Ways and writes “The Language Perfectionist,” a weekly column on grammar and usage, for Early to Rise. Don is author of The Versatile Freelancer,an e-book from American Writers and Artists, Inc. (AWAI) that shows copywriters – and almost anyone – how to diversify their careers into consulting, training, critiquing, and speaking.