Monday, July 22, 2013

What's the difference between...

There are a lot of homophones that I've wondered about because I've seen the spellings used interchangeably--or at least that's how it seemed.  I often chalk things up to British-American spelling differences, but I learned of a couple recently while proofreading a book that reminded me to actually look up these things rather than forgetting to do so.

The first word is "blonde" and "blond".  I did actually think that blonde is the correct spelling for no real reason, but it turns out there is difference when you use one as an adjective and one as a noun.  I'd use the e when it's a noun, as in That guy I met the other night was a blonde.  However, when I want to describe the hair colour, I'd have to spell it without the e, as in Her hair was short and blond.  My first mystery is solved!

The second word is "discrete" and "discreet".  The first spelling is the less common one and refers to separating or detaching from others and is the antonym to "continuous".  When I thought about it after seeing this definition, I realised I had most likely seen this word used a lot in the academic journal articles and textbooks I read in university because they would often refer to discrete units of things.  The latter spelling is the more common one we would use all the time when we're trying to be secretive or just covert about something.  One definition I read even stated that it means to judicious, cautious, discerning, and prudent.  Now I know the difference, and my second mystery is solved! It's actually a relief to me! ;o)

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