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Straw man and man of straw

The terms straw man and man of straw are two idioms that mean the same thing, but one is primarily a British term and one is primarily an American term. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. We will examine the meanings of the terms straw man and man of straw, where these idioms came from and where they are primarily used, as well as some examples of their use in sentences.A straw man or a man of … [Read more...]

Sentient vs sentiment

Sentient and sentiment are two words that are similar in spelling and pronunciation, but very different in meaning. They are often confused. We will examine the definitions of sentient and sentiment, where these two words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.Sentient means able to feel or perceive things. Any living thing that has some degree of consciousness is sentient, including insects, lizards, dogs, dolphins and human beings. Of course, since we can’t know for sure how … [Read more...]

Off-kilter and out of kilter

Off-kilter and out of kilter are two expressions that mean the same thing. We will examine the meaning of the terms off-kilter and out of kilter, how they entered the English language as well as some examples of their use in sentences.The terms off-kilter and out of kilter mean not in good condition or not in the conventional condition. The word kilter means harmony or in balance, and is considered a fossil word. A fossil word is an obsolete word that is no longer in common use, yet is … [Read more...]

Dregs vs dredge

Dregs and dredge are two words that are close in pronunciation and spelling, but have very different definitions. We will examine the meanings of the words dregs and dredge, where these two terms came from and some examples of their use in sentences.Dregs are the liquid and sediment left in a receptacle after it has been consumed. Dregs is also used figuratively to mean the lowest, least esteemed part of something, or the leftovers. The singular form, dreg, is listed as acceptable by many … [Read more...]

Coin a phrase

The roots of the idiom to coin a phrase may be older than you think. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. We will examine the meaning of the expression to coin a phrase, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.To coin a phrase means to invent a new saying or idiomatic expression that is new or unique. However, the term to coin a phrase is most often used today in a sarcastic or … [Read more...]

Out of whole cloth

Out of whole cloth is an American idiom that entered the English language in the early 1800s. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal meaning. We will examine the phrase out of whole cloth, the correct grammatical use of the term and some examples of its use in sentences.Out of whole cloth describes something that is untrue and has no grounding in the facts. The expression is generally used in the phrases made out … [Read more...]

Checkered past and chequered past

Checkered past and chequered past are two idioms that mean the same thing, though one is an American spelling and one is a British spelling. We will look at the meaning of the phrases checkered past and chequered past, where they came from and some examples of their use in sentences.A checkered past is one that involves periods of time that were good and periods of time that were bad. When referring to someone as having a checkered past, the emphasis is usually on the disreputable or … [Read more...]

Tanker vs tankard

Tanker and tankard are two words that are close in spelling and pronunciation but have very different meanings. We will examine the definitions of tanker and tankard, where these two words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.A tanker is a conveyance such as a truck, ship or aircraft used to carry liquids or gases or the contents of that conveyance. Commonly, a tanker is used to transport oil, though tankers may carry chemicals, gas, water or even milk. Tanker is used as a … [Read more...]

Askew vs eschew

Askew and eschew are two words that are similar in pronunciation and spelling, but have very different meanings. We will examine the definitions of askew and eschew, where these words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.Askew is a word used when referring to something awry, something that is not straight. Askew may refer to something that is physically awry or may be used figuratively to mean a situation or idea that is wrong or off-kilter. Askew may be used as an adverb, … [Read more...]

Providence vs province

Providence and province are two words that are similar in spelling and pronunciation, but have very different meanings. We will examine the definitions of providence and province, where these two words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.Providence is the protective power of God or nature. Providence is a mass noun, which is an uncountable noun that does not have a plural form. Providence is the name of the capital and most populous city of Rhode Island, which is also the … [Read more...]

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