These are all pairs of words that are not quite homophones. Maybe we could call them queeraphones? Very easy to mix up, at any rate, but you can potentially end up saying some very funny things if you use the wrong one.
I’ve tried to stick with ones that I haven’t seen on other writing-related websites. I assume most of you already know how to use those properly — if you’re still missing up “affect” and “effect” you need to switch to an easier blog than mine. These are the fun ones!
Ravish vs. Ravage
Barbarian hordes are fond of doing both of these! However, one happens specifically to people, while the other happens to your whole town, city, or farm in general:
- Ravish: To take by force (often used sexually)
- Ravage: To affect destructively; to wreak chaos on.
Therefore they might ravish your womenfolk, but ravage your farms. Hilariously, they can do both to your cattle, depending on whether they carry them off or just leave them all horrifically slaughtered with their inside bits on the outside. But hey, you were gonna do it to the cow anyway, so don’t get all huffy about it.
Eminent vs. Imminent
The only person who should ever be referred to as “Your Imminence” is an unsatisfactory bed partner:
- Eminent: Prominent or noteworthy; standing out so as to be readily perceived
- Imminent: About to take place; soon
Could a newly-minted celebrity still in the early stages of adulation be described as imminently eminent? Why yes. Yes he/she could.
Regime vs. Regimen
Regimes are often fond of strict regimens for their citizens! However, they are not the same thing:
- Regime: a government in power
- Regimen: a systematic plan or course of regular action
So you shouldn’t talk about your “dieting regime,” unless you are a right-wing commentator complaining about Michelle Obama, who is taking away your pizza for socialist purposes. Then it’s okay. (Grammatically okay. Socially/politically/intellectually you’re still an idiot.)
Discrete vs. Discreet
It is technically possible for you to be both of these at once, but for the most part you don’t refer to other people as being discrete no matter how true it is:
- Discreet: Unobtrusive; being possessed of good judgment in speech and conduct
- Discrete: Comprised of separate parts; having a finite or countably infinite number of values
Your maid can be very discreet, but until you murder her and chop the body up to protect your secrets she will probably never be described as discrete. Now what did you go and do that for? We already said she was discreet.
I suppose that last one was a homonym, now that I think about it, but it is not one that makes the usual lists (affect vs. effect, they’re vs. their vs. there, etc.), so I will let it stand. Eminently! But not imminently. We’re past that now.
Got your own to share? Leave a comment! I will try and think up funny things to say with your queeronyms. Or whatever they are.
And I will see the rest of you Monday.