Confused Words Exercise (231)

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.)

  • Madame LaLaurie has a deservedly ____ reputation for her acts of torture and murder.

  • The driving of the Golden Spike in 1869 was truly a/an _____ event.

  • When the two manufacturers could not settle their dispute, they agreed to be ruled by a/an _____ third party.

  • In the _____ Lawrence of Arabia was a hero; in England he was just another civil servant.

  • The audience waited expectantly for Romeo to _____ Juliet in his arms.

Answers and Explanations

1. Madame LaLaurie has a deservedly grisly reputation for her acts of torture and murder.

Grisly means "horrible" or "inspiring terror." Grizzly means "grayish" or "gray-haired."

2. The driving of the Golden Spike in 1869 was truly a/an historic event.

Both historic and historical mean "relating to history," but historic is usually reserved for an event of special significance. The clue here is the adverb truly. It would not be idiomatic to speak of "a truly historical event." Note: Some speakers say "a historic" and some say "an historic." Neither is an error.

3. When the two manufacturers could not settle their dispute, they agreed to be ruled by a/an disinterested third party.

Although the usage is becoming confused in the minds of many speakers, uninterested means simply "not interested," while disinterested means "impartial."

4. In the desert Lawrence of Arabia was a hero; in England he was just another civil servant.

An arid land is a desert (DEZ-ert). a sweet at the end of a meal is a dessert (duh-ZERT).

5. The audience waited expectantly for Romeo to envelop Juliet in his arms.

Envelope (EN-ve-lohp) is a noun. A letter is placed in an envelope. Envelop (en-VEL-up) is a verb meaning "to wrap up in."

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