Another long gap, another stretch of interesting life—although this stretch was actually pretty productive, editing-wise: two novels, a novella, a long short story, four Asian technical papers . . .  and two projects begun and dropped because they were just way out of my experiential expertise (although both look promising for future other-topic ventures)!

What to say today, to wrap up both a calendar-year and an impending “cliff dive”?

Let’s try one more round of “potato/potahto,” four more commonly confused words that sound alike but mean vastly different things:

  1. edition/addition:  An “edition” is a version of something, as in a history book that gets re-issued, often with new material added or deleted. Meanwhile, the only meaning for “addition” is the mathematical one, whether used in that context directly or in the phrase “in addition” (which merely means “also” but is a slightly more edumacated-sounding way to put it).
  2. then and than … This one shows up all the time. Only one of these is an adverb, and it relates to time passing: “I went for a long walk, then came home and took a hot shower.” The other word is used for comparison, as in, “I am older and a little taller than my brother.” (Note: GrammarGirl offers the tip that “both ‘then’ and ‘time’ have an ‘e’ in them, while ‘than’ and ‘comparison’ have an ‘a’ …

  3. flout/flaunt: This is less often seen but almost always confused when it does show up. The problem is, in this case, they both have to do with improper behavior, which is maybe why they so often get mixed up.When a rule is flouted, it’s being ignored, or even made fun of. Sometimes this is done out of civil disobedience, as when Rosa Parks flouted the rule about black people riding in the back of the bus, or the Occupy protestors flouted rules about “trespassing on public property” (which is oxyromonic at best). Other times it’s just rude behavior, as when a “no smoking” rule is ignored by an unruly patron in a private establishment. (We’ll let the civil disobedience claim slide away there, since smoke in the air does affect the environment of others, while where you choose to sit has no direct bearing on.)

    When you flaunt, you are just showing off. You can flaunt your wealth or your new sportscar, or you can flaunt your achievement, as a football player dancing in the end zone after scoring a touchdown. (Note: If such a player does this while still in high school or college, he is also “flouting” the rule against excessive celebration and will get flagged with a penalty as a result!)

    Once again, Grammar Girl has the tip on this one: “flouting” a law is showing you consider yourself “outside the law.”

  4. Finally, a trio of words that get mixed up, even though they are not only spelled differently but one is even a different pronunciation: wreak, reek and wreck all have entirely different meanings. One can “wreak havoc” on a situation, or “wreak vengeance” on an adversary. When something “reeks” it just plain smells bad (or just very noticeably, as in “he reeked of marijuana and a little scotch on the side”). When we “wreck” something, we simply destroy it.One way these often get confused is when they have suffixes attached: for example, “wreckless” is not a word, because it would mean “without a wreck,” so that “wreckless driving” over time would properly get an insurance reduction, not a ticket and a surcharge for the next three years! The proper word is reckless, which Webster’s defines as: “marked by lack of proper caution; careless of consequences . . .”

So there you have four more for your edification and amusement. I really do intend to get more intricate in the new year, but now it’s time to go get ready for a party!