Angela’s ABCs: meretricious and meritorious by Angela Caldin

There are various words in the English language whose meanings I only half understand, like paradigm or leverage or egregious. There’s also a word whose meaning I thought I understood, but having looked it up, I discover I had misunderstood it completely. That word is meretricious. I had vaguely thought it had something to do with merit and that it described something good, but in fact if you describe something as meretricious, you disapprove of it because although it appears attractive it actually has little value or integrity.  It’s used to suggest… Read More

The joys of grammar by Angela Caldin

At school, in English lessons in the middle of the last century, we were taught something called parsing which involved analysing a sentence in terms of its grammar, identifying the parts of speech, and understanding its syntax. I loved parsing and I think this way of looking at language can be helpful in learning foreign languages and in writing in general. One of the main rules of grammar is that the subject of a sentence must always agree with the verb. In other words, they both must be singular or they both… Read More

Words often confused – enervate and energise by Angela Caldin

Enervate and energise are antonyms which means they are opposites, though increasingly enervate is mistakenly used as a synonym for energise. Enervate means to deprive of force or strength, to destroy the vigour of, to weaken, to sap, to drain someone of energy, to make someone feel weak in a physical or mental way, to make someone feel debilitated. The gloomy, rainy weather seemed to enervate her system and she grew daily more weak and depressed. Britain’s democratic system is enervated and paralysed by parliament’s inability to make progress with Brexit. Spain’s… Read More

Angela’s ABCs: words sometimes confused – discrete and discreet by Angela Caldin

The adjectives discrete and discreet are homophones which share the same Latin origin: discretus, meaning separate. They are pronounced the same way, but have different meanings. Discrete has stayed close in meaning to its Latin origins and means individually separate and distinct: We can no longer view extreme incidents such as flood, drought and high temperatures as discrete happenings, but must study them in the context of climate change as a whole. The golf club has three discrete membership categories. The mechanical device consists of several discrete parts which all work together… Read More

Angela’s ABCs: words sometimes confused – loose and lose by Angela Caldin

  I often hesitate over which of these two words is right in the particular context and it’s only when I say them out loud that I can get it clear. Loose, which rhymes with goose, is usually an adjective meaning not firmly or tightly held in place; not compact or dense; and free from restraint or confinement. The farmer realised that all the cows were loose and were trampling the vegetable patch. Matilda had a loose tooth which she hoped would soon come out and earn her some money from the… Read More