Last week we discussed the common mistake of using overly big words as a way to try to sound intelligent and knowledgeable. While using large vocabulary words may help you to express a specific idea, you also run the risk of confusing your listener or sounding pretention. There is also the additional risk that you may not be using these words correctly at all! Before adding a new word to your vocabulary, don’t just guess at its meaning from context. Actually take the time to look the word up and find out exactly what it means. Take a look below at four words that are commonly misused:
- Travesty: Many people incorrectly use this word as a synonym for tragedy. However it actually means a mockery or parody of something.
- Penultimate: This word is sometimes misused to mean, the very best. It actually has a very different meaning: the next to last. For example, “Maria will be our penultimate speaker of the day. Then Jack will speak and we will conclude our meeting.”
- Ironic: Ironic is often misused to describe something funny or coincidental. More accurately, it means that something is the opposite of what you’d expect, for example: “Joe was terrified of flying as a child; ironically, he grew up to be an airline pilot.” In some cases an ironic event may be amusing, which accounts for some of the confusion.
- Odious: This word has been used incorrectly to mean something that smells bad. The confusion is understandable, given it sounds like odor. However this is a confusion between this word and odorous (which actually means having a bad smell). Odious means to cause feelings of hate.
Remember: It’s much more important to speak with clarity and confidence than use an overly inflated vocabulary! Check in with us again next week when we’ll give you five words that you may be mispronouncing.
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