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Two-tone, twice-as-nice, seeing double

Did I say that? You mean what? Sometimes the message we send with our words is not quite that which we intended.

What if I offered understanding and sympathy for someone’s situation, explaining that his mendacity was his only choice. Then I condone and feel his habitual lying is OK? Lying is the meaning of mendacity, but I was probably referring to mendicity, or practice of begging.

Another descriptive adjective is “ingenuous,” spoken of a person who is frank, open, candid. This could result in either a positive or negative comment but certainly is not the same as ingenious, a word that credits one with cleverness or brilliance.

I might speak of a person as venal, corrupt with a weakness for bribery. Is this politics? Or are we dealing with something more simple, maybe venial, meaning trivial or worthy of forgiveness.

One letter can obviously make a difference, including in the two verbs “deduce” and “deduct.” The first allows one to draw a conclusion, derive by reasoning. The latter action may be more specific, to take away or subtract from an amount.

Speaking of taking away, one might abrogate certain laws or rules by repealing or doing away with them. That action can be taken by people in power; however, one who arrogates authority claims he has more control or influence than he is actually entitled to.

Have you ever felt really contemptuous toward some practice or idea? You regard it as unworthy. That means you see it as contemptible or despicable. Be sure you describe the object as “able” to receive contempt (contemptible), while “u” are the one described as feeling that disdain (contemptuous).

A bit more positive pair of words is that of “luxurious” and “luxuriant.” Each has its pluses, but in quite different ways. The first is a broader term referring to something that provides pleasure, is beyond necessity, and is even self-indulgent. This could be luxurious entertainment, food or living conditions. Luxuriant, on the other hand, is specifically descriptive of living growth (foliage), which is rich, growing profusely.

And one wants to be careful not to confuse two other similar words: “gourmet” and “gourmand.” A gourmet is a connoisseur or judge of fine foods. He might well sit in respected judgment of the best restaurant, but the gourmand might be disrespectfully stuffing his face to excess. He is also known as a glutton.

I hope at least one pair of these words has managed to titillate, tickle or stimulate your sense of interest in similar, yet distinguishable words.

And I will finish with the word “titivate,” to put the finishing touches on something, to adorn or spruce up.

Moral of the story: it may be necessary to titivate (preen) when the end goal is to titillate (interest)!

Sandi Ekberg taught high school English in Medford for 30 years. If you have grammar questions, email her at ifixgrammar@charter.net.

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