Homonyms, Homophones, and Other Confusingly Similar Words

censer (noun) covered incense burner
censor (verb) to inspect conduct, morals, documents
censure (verb) to criticize or reproach in a harsh or vehement manner

inequity (noun) injustice, unfairness
iniquity (noun) gross injustice or wickedness

lickerish (adjective) greedy, lascivious
licorice (noun) a candy flavored with licorice root

lighted, lit
According to Bryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors, either is correct. Lighted, however, is more usual when the word is being used as an adjective (“a lighted torch”).

palate (anatomy) roof of mouth
palate (noun) the sense of taste: a dinner to delight the palate
palate (noun) intellectual or aesthetic taste; mental appreciation
palette (noun) thin board on which a painter mixes pigment
pallet (noun) small temporary bed; portable platform

further, farther
I was taught that “farther” should designate distance and “further” is for quantity or degree.

But my Merriam Webster’s Concise Dictionary of English Usage has muddied the waters for me. Seems further is taking over meanings that used to belong exclusively to farther.

The folks at MWCDEU track present-day usage trends of commonly confused and disputed words and phrases. They’ve had their eye on farther and further for quite some time (I saw references going back to the 1920’s).

Farther as an adjective, the MWCDEU says, is now limited to instances where literal or figurative distance is involved. And further competes even in this function: “It was the furthest thing from everyone’s mind.”

“So for the adjective we can see that further has squeezed farther out of the additional sense and is giving it pressure in the more distant sense.”

I was beginning to feel sorry for farther, but then read that, used as an adverb, farther still dominates “when spatial, temporal, or metaphorical distance is involved.” Such as, “Nothing could be farther from the truth.”

I was farther and farther, or is it further and further?,  from understanding when to furt and when to fart, as it were.

For clarification, I turned again to my expert of choice, Bill Bryson:
“Insofar as the two are distinguished, farther usually appears in contexts involving literal distance (‘New York is farther from Syney than from London’) and further in contexts involving figurative distance (‘I can take this plan no further’).”

Which explains why there’s a “furthermore” but not a “farthermore.”

And another great word arrived in my email from Dictionary.com:

fugacious \fyoo-GAY-shuhs\, adjective:

Lasting but a short time; fleeting.

When he proposed the tax in May, Altman thought it would follow the fugacious nature of some flowers: bloom quickly and die just as fast.
— Will Rodgers, “Parks proposal falls on 3-2 vote”, Tampa Tribune, June 27, 2001
[What an extremely erudite and poetic newspaper report on such a mundane topic. The headline is hardly compelling: “Parks proposal falls on 3-2 vote”]

Fugacious is derived from Latin fugax, fugac-, “ready to flee, flying; hence, fleeting, transitory,” from fugere, “to flee, to take flight.” Other words derived from the same root include fugitive, one who flees, especially from the law; refuge, a place to which to flee back (re-, “back”), and hence to safety; and fugue, literally a musical “flight.”

Reminds me of the wise guys’ favorite word: “Fuggedaboutit!”

See my master list of all the homonyms, homophones, and other confusingly similar words I’ve posted to date

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