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Mnemonic devices for sorting odd couples

One day, many years ago, a colleague was telling me about difficulty getting enough to eat at night and waking up hungry.

She finished with, “I just hate it when I wake up ravishing.”

I had to choke back a laugh, because this friend was an English teacher and didn’t even realize the error she had made. There is definitely a difference between ravishing and ravenous. "Ravenous" means excessively hungry; voracious. On the other hand, one who is "ravishing" is extremely beautiful, dazzling, gorgeous. I’m sure my friend would not have minded that at all!

Two other similar words are mantel and mantle. Perhaps you have decorated for the holidays and will soon hang stockings from your mantel. This is the ledge or mantelshelf above your fireplace. (Think of the "el" in elf, as in the fellow who helps Santa).

If you are wearing a mantle, or the field is covered with a mantle of snow, that is a cloak or cover. (To remember this usage, think of less seen, due to that cover).

When words are similar, it is easy to confuse them. Using a mnemonic device to remember which is which, as is done with mantel/mantle, can be helpful.

A mnemonic device is that which assists the memory, such as a pattern of letters, ideas or associations that aid in remembering.

— Sandi Ekberg taught high school English in Medford for 30 years, with a special interest in vocabulary, grammar and usage. If you have grammar questions you would like answered, email her at ifixgrammar@charter.net