We don’t think of fall as a time for beginnings, except perhaps as the beginning of the end. It’s a mild season set between two harsh ones, the last of which is winter: the cold, dark sleep. But this year, as summer ends and we all gear up to face another season, another semester, another year, I encourage you to think of autumn, or any season, as an opportunity for a new start. And then, while we wait for NaNoWriMo to come along, take your newfound outlook and these very fitting words and do something with them. Continue reading
I think everyone has a word or two that reads differently silently from aloud. Sometimes it’s done out of ignorance, or habit, or even for fun. Mine is Eleanor. In my head, it has four syllables and the last two rhyme with “manor.” I know that it isn’t correct, and I wouldn’t dream of purposefully mispronouncing someone’s name, but somehow that diphthong in the middle has never set well with me. Continue reading
A lot of non-creative people believe that being an artist is the easiest, most natural job in the world. After all, writers, painters, and musicians must all have some sort of innate genius, right? And tapping into that genius—penning the words, brushing the strokes, strumming the chords—takes no effort at all, right? I mean, if you’re good at it. It’s easy to fall into these pitfalls of ignorant thought, where we automatically assume that we are the only ones working hard, but the truth is that we all get creatively constipated sometimes. Continue reading
I must confess: I have a bit of a jones when it comes to “old” words. Maybe it’s because I fancy myself an intellectual, or because I was raised by older parents than were most of my peers. Using the word “stilly” to describe corpses lying under a blanket once got me a friendly reprimand in Advanced Creative Writing: “That word is ancient. I’m old. That’s ancient. The last time I read it was Thomas Moore, ‘Oft, in the Stilly Night.’ That’s from around 1800.” I was somewhat crushed. I liked “stilly.” I thought it fit. It had a cellar door sort of appeal. Continue reading
Those who study languages live in fear of false friends: words whose meanings are radically different than what they seem. English speakers learning Spanish are humiliated to find that embarazada means “pregnant.” Their German-studying counterparts will turn red-faced in the restaurant when they learn that die Pickel means “pimples.”
But false friends are not found only in foreign tongues. English has plenty of them, due to a variety of factors. Not least among this is its history as an amalgamation of different European languages, which has led to an abundance of homophones and homonyms that aren’t even close to being synonyms. Here, I’ve compiled a list of 25 misunderstood and misused words; become real friends with them, would you?