New Word: Sometimes It’s Confusing

New Word #101

wile and rile

I encountered these two words again last week in reading, and I had to look them up again. No matter how many times I tried to remember them, the two words refuse to stick to my mind. Also the two words look and sound similar and I can’t distinguish between the two. All I can remember is a vague sense of being annoying or deceitful.

  • wile: (noun) deceitful strategies used by cunning people to manipulate others.
  • rile: (verb) become annoyed

dig and gig

These two words are often used, but not in their original meanings. As a non-native speaker, I have to pause and think about the meaning whenever I see them. The phrase “a dig” most often doesn’t mean an archaeological adventure, but rather a teasing comment on somebody or something. And “dig horror movies” doesn’t mean to take a shovel to excavate a pile of buried DVD, but rather it means to like horror movies.

  • dig: (North America) (noun) a sarcastic tease on somebody. (verb) like or appreciate.
  • gig: a live performance, for example, a standup comedy

skit, skid, skim, and skip

All four words are regularly used. Since the last consonant in English is often so faint and silent that these four words can sound very similar if you watch TV shows or news. Fortunately, we can often discern the real meaning just by the context.

  • skit: a parody, a short comedy
  • skid: This happens if you are driving on an icy or a snowy road. It means the car just slide out of control. I was involved in a terrible skid once in Upstate New York. I got off a ramp from a highway and made a turn for the local road. Since there were un-ploughed snow on the road and my car was not really slow, it just spun like more than 180 degree, completely out of control.
  • skim: This word has many meanings. The most often used is to read quickly and casually. It also means to remove the top part of a liquid. For example, skim the fat on the surface of boiled milk or soymilk. I used to mistakenly think that skim milk means the fat part of the milk since back home people skim soymilk and use the this top layer of soy fat to make tofu delicacies. However skim milk doesn’t mean the top part of the milk. On the contrary, it means the milk that has the top part removed. So skim milk is actually nonfat milk. The usage is similar to shell. For example, the phrase shelled shrimps means shrimps with their shell removed.
  • skip: skip has a lot of meanings. It means to jump one foot after the other, to omit class or pages. It is also used in nicknames.

hallow, hollow, halo

  • hallow: honor as holy
  • hollow: empty space or insignificantly empty
  • halo: the circle of light behind a saintly figure

historic, histrionic

  • historic: (adj) historically significant; famous in history
  • histrionic: dramatic in an exaggerated fashion.

meritorious, meretricious

  • meritorious: deserving merits
  • meretricious: (adj) looking attractive but in essence with no merit

elide, elude

  • elide: omit a syllable in one’s speech. This happens a lot and it is very difficult for a non-native speaker to understand when people elide. And also in English, the last consonant is often omitted in speech.
  • elude: evade. This word is very similar to evade. Also evasive is similar to elusive.

chew, eschew

  • chew: use teeth to bite and grind food before swallowing.
  • eschew: avoid

crave, craven

  • crave: feel a desire
  • craven: timid, cowardly

10 thoughts on “New Word: Sometimes It’s Confusing

  1. To complicate matters further (sorry), ‘dig’ can also mean to appreciate or like something e.g. “I really dig The Beatles,” though this is now dated (from the 1960s & 70s), while in the UK ‘digs’ refers to temporary accommodation, where a student or travelling actor may stay for a limited period. ‘Dig in’ is an informal invitation to start eating, and ‘dug up’ means to find something lost or misplaced. Whew !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, so true. I feel that people really like this word and have piled a lot of meaning on it. None of these is related with digging something up from down under. Somehow the slang just overwhelm the original meaning. I don’t know how it comes to be this way and who started this kind of thing, but it is interesting how languages evolve.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great collection again! How lucky we are today to just quickly google a word when we don’t know it. I remember I had actual dictionaries (fat books) for English and Italian at school to use which we were allowed to use in higher classes.

    Liked by 1 person

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