Vocabulary Quiz #2: Confused Words

By Mark Nichol

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.)

1. He runs the _________ from slapstick comedian to arch satirist.
a) gamut
b) gauntlet

2. We went to see her perform in a musical _______.
a) revue
b) review

3. To what _______ are you willing to go to prevent that from happening?
a) extant
b) extent

4. The major ________ of the religion are listed below.
a) tenants
b) tenets

5. The place has a certain _______ to it.
a) cache
b) cachet

Answers and Explanations

1. He runs the gamut from slapstick comedian to arch satirist.

Gamut means “an entire range or series,” and a gauntlet is a protective glove, a trial or ordeal, or, in idiomatic use, a literal or figurative challenge to another to engage in combat.

2. We went to see her perform in a musical revue.

A revue is a performance of loosely related songs, dances, and skits; a review is an analysis, critique, summary, or survey (though the word is sometimes used interchangeably with revue).

3. To what extent are you willing to go to prevent that from happening?

Extent means “magnitude,” “range,” or “scope,” while extant means “existing.”

4. The major tenets of the religion are listed below.

A tenet is a belief, doctrine, or principle, generally one shared by a group of people; a tenant is a person who rents property from another.

5. The place has a certain cachet to it.

Cachet refers to prestige or a feature or quality associated with prestige (as well as other meanings); a cache is a location for hiding or storing something, or a short-term computer memory. (The words are pronounced “cashay” and “cash,” respectively.)

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7 Responses to “Vocabulary Quiz #2: Confused Words”

  • Agua Caliente

    Well, the words aren’t confused, just confusing. One of my bird books has a section on “Confusing Fall Warblers.” It’d be much funnier if they’d been called “confused,” though!

  • Dale A. Wood

    There is an endless set of confusable pairs of words in English that follow this pattern:
    You can run away from captivity, and “run away” is a verb.
    On the other hand “runaway” is either a noun or an adjective.
    The Runaway Slaves Act was a poisonous act of Congress that nearly contributed to the fissure of the United States, along with the California Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854.
    Also in that time frame, the Supreme Court ruled that the Missouri Compromise of 1820 was unconstitutional.
    The former act forced authorities in free states to find and return runaways to their owners in the South.
    Also, the best thing to do with a runaway nuclear reactor is to SCRAM it, where originally “SCRAM” equaled “Safety Control Reactor Axe Man”, on the campus of the Univ. of Chicago in December 1942.

  • Dale A. Wood

    A pair of confusing names that I have mentioned before: “Nassau” and “NASA”, with the first being important to the Bahamas and the second being important to central Florida.

  • Dale A. Wood

    Two other place names “down under” that can be confused. John Eyre discovered a large saline lake in South Australia that is called “Lake Eyre”. Another man discovered another mountain in central Australia, and he named it “Ayers Rock”, for a longtime politician and businessman in South Australia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Ayers
    The native name for this gigantic rock is “Uluru”, and more and more people are calling it that now, just as some people call Mt. McKinley “Denali” from the native name.
    Confusing things even more, “Ayer” is also a word in the English language, such as in the town of Ayer, Massachusetts, and prominent English people with the surname “Ayer”. So, we have {Ayers, Ayre, and Eyre}, plus the novel “Jane Eyre”.
    As for the renaming of mountains, etc., it could be taken too far. I can’t imagine Colorado without Pikes Peak, New Hampshire without Mt. Washington, and North Carolina without Mt. Mitchell and Grandfather Mountain!

  • Dale A. Wood

    MORE confusing words.
    1. One of the earliest explorers of central Australia was a man named John Sturt. one who looked for a large central sea or lake. He never found one, of course.
    2. Along came John Stuart and his expedition, and it discovered a high mountain in the middle of the county. He named this mountain “Mt. Sturt”. (Confusing, because he did not name the mountain for himself.) One of the other places that Stuart and his men visited was “Alice Springs”, where they did stock up on water. Stuart and his men were looking for an north-south route across Australia for a) telegraph lines, and b) a north-south railroad.
    3. In the course of time, people decided to change the name of “Mt. Sturt” to “Mt. Stuart”, and that is its name to this day. Poor Mr. Sturt has been largely forgotten about.
    4. The telegraph line between Adelaide and Darwin was finished rather quickly, but the railroad never has been. It connects the south coast with Alice Springs – for steam engines need water, too – but it never has been built from Alice Springs to Darwin.
    5. Australia does have a transcontinental railroad in the orthogonal direction. It connects Sydney (and a whole rail network in the east), via Victoria (Melbourne), and via South Australia and Western Australia, with Perth on the west coast.

  • Dale A. Wood

    When I was a boy, I read a lot of books about explorers, and I often wondered why explorers of the Antarctic, Arctic Canada, and the deserts of Australia often put food and other valuable items “catches”, and then marked those with “cairns”. Well, I was so young that the word “cache” simply did not register as a different word, and I didn’t know what a “cairn” was either – except that I figured out that a “cairn” is a pile of rocks that helps you find a “catch” (cache).
    It was also difficult to figure out what a “catch” of bourbon and brandy was.
    It turned out that two Australians, Burke and Wills, trekked on foot all the way from the south coast to the north coast, becoming the first two to cross that continent. Then they turned around and retraced their trail to the south. Finally, they rain completely out of food and they both starved to death on the way south – just five to ten miles away from a “catch” of food that they had left behind.
    A few years later, and Englishman named John Stuart lead a well-equipped expedition, complete with CAMELS and horses, all the way from the south coast to the north coast and back. That’s the was the way to travel, when you didn’t have Jeeps or airplanes!

  • Dale A. Wood

    5. The place has a certain “cachet” to it.
    Cachet refers to prestige or a feature or quality associated with; a cache is a location for hiding or storing something, or a short-term computer memory. (The words are pronounced “cashay” and “cash,” respectively.)
    Aha, you ought to include all of these words in a list, too {catch, cache, cash, cachet, sashay, sash, sachet}, and especially for people who have trouble with the various sounds of “c”. It is quite idiomatic, and as some smart people have pointed out that the letter “c” is completely redundant in English because it could always be 1) replaced by “k”, 2) replaced by “s”, or 3) omitted altogether.
    In German, they frequently do this, especially at the beginnings of words: Kur (cure), Kegel (cone), Kern (core), Kohl (cabbage), Kohle (cole), Kamera, Kaiser (derived from “Caesar”), Kanada, Kalifornien, Kairo, and Kameroun (formerly ruled by the German Empire).
    German speakers must love names like Kansas, Kennedy, Kent, Kentucky, Kingsville (Texas), Klondike, Kazakhstan, and Korea.
    I had a good friend in college who was from the Cameroon. It turns out that in 1919, it was taken from Germany and then jointly ruled by the British and the French until independence. My friend knew how to speak 1) His native African language, 2) English, 3) French, and 4) lots of German words. He also told me that in Cameroon, there are lots of old German-style castles and villas, built out of stone – which you don’t expect in an equatorial country. He had also played professional soccer in Monterrey, Mexico, so he knew a lot of Spanish. (We both earned our master’s degrees in mathematics in Huntsville, Alabama.)

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