Wordplay: Ascent and Assent


Your parents would not give their ascent to your desire to attend a party. An airplane would not make an assent to a cruising altitude. Although these two words sound exactly the same, they do not share the same meaning. Assent may be a noun or a verb – in its noun form, assent means agreement or acceptance, and in its verb form, assent means to agree with an idea. Ascent is a noun meaning the … [Read more...]

Wordplay: Allusion and Illusion


A magician who performed an allusion would be quite boring indeed. Likewise, a movie that contained an illusion to literature would be quite odd. An allusion is a reference to something else. Allusion is the noun form of the verb “to allude”. To allude to something is to reference something indirectly. An illusion is a false impression or an incorrect perception. Both words share the same root … [Read more...]

Wordplay: Flout or Flaunt


In The Life of Pi, the eponymous Pi compares animals in the wild to animals in a zoo, saying, “Animals in the wild are, in practice, free neither in space nor in time, nor in their personal relations. In theory – that is, as a simple physical possibility – an animal could pick up and go, flaunting all social conventions and boundaries proper to its species.” Whoops. Yann Martel, the book’s … [Read more...]

Wordplay: Ascetic and Aesthetic

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The bedroom of one who lives an ascetic lifestyle would probably be quite ugly. Think “monk’s chambers”: A hard bed, possibly a bedside table, and perhaps a single hard chair. The bedroom of one who lives life devoted to aesthetics would probably be gorgeous: An art collection on one wall, sumptuous area rugs, and beautiful textiles. An ascetic is one who practices self-denial and … [Read more...]

Wordplay: Complement and Compliment

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If someone pays you a complement you should be confused rather than flattered. Likewise, your scarf probably doesn’t compliment your outfit (unless you have a talking scarf). Here’s why: … [Read more...]

Wordplay: Proscribe and Prescribe


  Proscribe and prescribe are two of the most commonly confused words in the English language. And no wonder: Their etymologies are nearly identical, their spellings are nearly identical, but their meanings are completely opposite! … [Read more...]

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