Tuesday, October 6, 2015

I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means

English is difficult. Many English words have nuances that escape even native English speakers. And many words sound similar but mean very different things. In my experience, these are some of the words most misused, especially by lawyers.

Appraise and Apprise. To appraise something is to assess its value. To apprise is to inform. The jeweler appraised the diamond and apprised the seller of the diamond's value.  

Disinterested and Uninterested.  Disinterested means unbiased, not lacking interest. That's uninterested. You might ask a disinterested party to mediate your case, but if you want him to mediate the case pro bono, he'd likely be uninterested in your offer. 

Hung and Hanged. Hung means suspended. Hanged is an older form of capital punishment.  

Imply and Infer. These words aren't interchangeable. They aren't antonyms in the strict sense, but they do, in a way, have opposite meanings. To imply is to suggest but not state outright. To infer is to guess based on context clues. Thus, a speaker will imply and a listener will infer based on the speaker's implication.

Ironic and Coincidental. Irony is a disconnect between actual events and what's expected. If you travel to Utah to ski, and there's no snow in Utah, but snow at your house, that's ironic. A coincidence occurs when seemingly unrelated events happen simultaneously. If you make a last-minute trip to Utah to ski and your friend also decides to travel to Utah to ski at the last minute, that's coincidence. 

Practicable and Practical. Practicable means easy to perform or put in practice. Practical means many things, including sensible and suitable. A practical solution to a problem may not always be practicable.  

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