At RipCord Communications we’re the first to admit we love a little word play. But does it nauseate you or make you nauseous when someone uses the wrong word to describe their thoughts? Well, most of us are guilty of it from time-to-time, but there are many juicy terms you could use to spice up your writing – just get them right!
With a little help from our friends at dictionary.com, grammarist.com, and merriam-webster.com, we provide the true definitions and examples of often bamboozled words in our yummy language. (BTW – We still keep one of those worn out behemoth dictionaries with the yellowed pages on the RipCord bookshelf for old times sake.)
Elicit vs. Illicit
Let’s begin with two words you can have a lot of fun with, especially in descriptive writing. For example, The business owner was carrying on an illicit affair with his secretary. In this case, illicit is used contrary to accepted sexual morality. On the other hand: However, the misbehavior elicited no outcry from other employees as they feared for their jobs.
Elicit – 1. to draw forth or bring out (something latent or potential); 2. to call forth or draw out (as information or a response).
Illicit – 1. not legally permitted or authorized; unlicensed; unlawful; 2. disapproved of or not permitted for moral or ethical reasons.
Titillate vs. Titivate
Titillate and titivate are both verbs and can be easily confused. One can excite you while the other will make you smart or spruce. Here are the definitions:
Titillate – 1. to excite or arouse agreeably; 2. to tickle; excite a tingling or itching sensation in, as by touching or stroking lightly.
Titivate – 1. to make smart or spruce; 2. to make oneself smart or spruce.
Again, intriguing words to recall for descriptive embellishment. We’ll keep it innocent here and use titillate in a tamer manner as your mind wanders with wilder examples. She was titillated by the thought of going to her favorite restaurant as she was craving Italian food. Titivate isn’t as common but is a titillating word to impress with. The drab color of her outfit was titivated by some great accessories.
Farther vs. Further
The key difference between these two adverbs, before we delve further into some more, is the use of “farther” for physical distance and “further” for metaphorical or physical distance. If you are a closet sci-fi geek, think of Star Wars taking place in a galaxy far, far away – a physical distance. On the flip side, Luke Skywalker had to stop Darth Vader’s reign of terror before he went any further – as in progression.
Farther – 1. at or to a greater distance or more advanced point; 2. to a greater degree or extent
Further – 1. in addition: moreover; 2. to a greater degree or extent
In many cases, they can be used interchangeably, which adds to the confusion. For example, as in “before we go any further” or “before we go any farther.” (Are you ready for some Tylenol yet?)
Nauseate vs. Nauseous
This particular case is enough to make you sick to your stomach due to the complexity, but the first word, “nauseate,” is a verb, while the second, “nauseous,” is an adjective. To illustrate, we’ll add a few extra examples.
Nauseate – 1. to affect with nausea; sicken; 2. to cause to feel extreme disgust; 3. to become affected with nausea – ex. Her rude behavior towards the staff nauseates me.
Nauseous – 1. affected with nausea; nauseated; to feel nauseous; 2. causing nausea; sickening; nauseating; 3. disgusting; loathsome – ex. A nauseous display of greed.
According to Grammar Girl, “It’s common to hear people say they’re nauseous when their stomach is upset, but language sticklers hold that nauseous means to induce nausea, whereas nauseated means you feel sick. So when you’re describing how sick you feel, you should say you are nauseated; when you’re describing something that makes you sick, you should call it nauseous.” However, most usage guides say the improper use is actually more common than the proper, so it’s enough to make anyone feel nauseated!
Berth vs. Birth
Finally, just in time for March Madness, let’s look at a sports-related term. Did a team earn a berth or birth into the NCAA Basketball Tournament? Let’s first look at the definitions:
Berth – 1. the place where a ship moors; 2. a fixed sleeping place aboard a ship or train; 3. a position in a sporting event or sporting organization. May be used as a noun or a verb.
Birth – 1. the act of bearing the young; 2. the fact of having been born; 3. ancestry; 4. the beginning of something. May be used as a noun, adjective or a verb.
Well, since the team didn’t earn their tourney status in the hospital, we go with berth here. However, if a #16-seed gave birth to an upset victory over the #1, that is a completely different story.
Please note that is one example alums of the higher-ranked team would feel nauseated over. We would assume their feelings would not elicit many tears from those who put big money on an upset; instead, those gamblers were titillated by the outcome.
In conclusion, we welcome you to birth your own titillating examples to titivate your writing. But be forewarned – you may elicit some unkind responses if you correct misuse by friends and family. Just don’t push the envelope further than necessary by correcting a client. That may take you farther from their checkbook.
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