Confused Words Exercise (220)

In each sentence, choose the correct word from the pair of similar terms. (If both words possibly can be correct, choose the more plausible one.)

  • The _________ of a virtually indestructible child’s laptop was featured at the conference.

  • The riots were so extensive that the governor imposed _______ law.

  • The lack of empathy in many young people permits them to ______ dreadful acts upon others.

  • The priest swung the ______ at Midnight Mass.

  • People stopped going out after dark because of the _______ of zombies roaming the streets.

Answers and Explanations

1. The prototype of a virtually indestructible child’s laptop was featured at the conference.

Strictly speaking, prototype and archetype are synonyms, but in modern usage, prototype is used to refer to the original on which something is modeled, while archetype carries the meaning it has in the psychology of C.G. Jung: a pervasive idea, image, or symbol that forms part of the collective unconscious.

2. The riots were so extensive that the governor imposed martial law.

In modern usage, the noun marshal refers to an officer of the court responsible for the custody of prisoners. In the U.S., a marshal is a legal officer appointed to a judicial district, having duties similar to those of a sheriff. The adjective martial, derived from the name of Mars, god of war, refers to anything relating to war or the military.

3. The lack of empathy in many young people permits them to inflict dreadful acts upon others.

The meanings of these two words are very similar. Inflict carries the meaning of a physical act being imposed. One inflicts a punishment. Afflict is more abstract. A disease afflicts a person. A misbehaved child afflicts parents with worry.

4. The priest swung the censer at Midnight Mass.

In modern use, the noun censor refers to an official whose job is to review books, journals, and all other forms of media to prevent the publication of words or ideas considered by the government to be injurious. A censer is a fireproof container in which incense is burned, usually for a religious purpose.

5. People stopped going out after dark because of the hordes of zombies roaming the streets.

The noun hoard is the accumulation of something put away for secrecy or for future use. Silas Marner, for example, had a hoard of coins. A horde is a group of people or other living things. In modern use, it means a large, disorderly, possibly dangerous group of people.

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