Back
Some common word mix-ups
Jul 27, 2012
In one of its frequent rants supporting federal government cuts, the Sun’s July 17 editorial sought to show that the Canadian International Development Agency’s sympathy for Zimbabwe is folly.
The editorial began: “It is distinctly laughable ...”  The second sentence was: “It is also ludicrous.”
What truly is laugh invoking is the Sun’s failure to understand that laughable and ludicrous mean the same thing.
This newspaper isn’t alone in vocabulary misunderstanding. While I’ve never before noticed laughable/ludicrous confusion, I’ve often seen and heard other not fully understood word mix-ups.
Historic/historical are invariably seen as synonyms. They are not. Their meanings are similar but different. Historic refers so something history-making, for example, “the historic signing of the Magna Carta.” Historical means something concerned with, or found in, history — “a tour of historical buildings.”
In/into confuse many. In’s meaning is basic — within a space; inside. “Hilary was already in the car.” Into indicates movement. “Hilary was in the car when Humphrey forced his way into it.”
Relatively/comparatively are synonyms and either may be used in sentences like, “It was a relatively dangerous undertaking.” The thing to remember is that neither of these words should be used unless a comparison to something can be made.
Resume/continue is another pair presenting problems. To resume means to go on following an interruption or delay: “Parliament resumed after the Christmas break.” To continue also means “to go on,” but in continue’s case, there’s been no interruption. “It continued to rain.”
As with in and into, it’s possible to use both resume and continue in a single sentence. “Quebec students continued their daily marches for months, took a summer break, then resumed their protest.”
The two words most confused today appear to be house and home. This misunderstanding occurs everywhere.
The discovery of explosives in a house in Barrie, Ontario, was reported by both print and electronic media as, “found in a home.” Here’s an excerpt from CN News: “Thursday afternoon police uncovered cement bunkers and volatile chemicals inside and around the home.”
Another example of this same faulty misinterpretation of home is in the way the house where Phoenix Sinclair died is always referred to as a home. Some home!
The preceding examples ignore or overlook the true meaning of home.
The truth is, a builder erects a house which, once lived in, becomes a home. Vacant houses, whether once lived in or not, are not homes. But home’s meaning is still deeper. Implicit in the word home is the idea of “shelter; a place to feel safe.”
Poet Edgar A. Guest wrote, “It takes a heap o’ livin’ in a house to make it home.”
Whether we realize it or not, we do understand this. That’s why firefighters battle house fires, not home fires; why we don’t hear of seniors’ houses or nursing houses, but rather speak of seniors’ homes and nursing homes. We have bird houses and houses of prostitution, the correct understanding apparently recognized in all these cases.
Just keep in mind — house and home are not true synonyms.