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Contemplate these meanings

Despite the similarity in spelling for today’s words, they have very different meanings.

contemn: [verb] scorn, disregard, feel contempt for
He seems to take price in his ability to contemn new performers. 

contemplate: [verb] consider, envisage and observe consistently about a likely or probably action or outcome
A wise person will contemplate all options before making an important decision.


The word contemn is not used a lot, but some people question whether it was the intended word in line two of The Ode (part of For The Fallen by  Laurence Binyon and used in ANZAC and other remembrance services around the world):

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

It appears that Binyon did intend to use the word ‘condemn’, but ‘contemn’ would also fit in there. Which word gives the better message to you?

8 Responses to Contemplate these meanings

  • anotherspaceman says:

    I like to think of myself as quite a smart guy (well who doesn’t?!) but I had never heard of the word ‘contemn’ before!

    Great to learn a new word, although quite unexpected and not my main reason for visiting this blog.

    Chances are I’ll be using condemn in the future, it just seems to be a synonym to all intents.

    Very nice excerpt from the poem as well.

    • tashword says:

      Glad to have expanded your vocabulary today, another spaceman, and make you an even smarter guy!

      That excerpt is very well known in Australia as it is said at most Anzac Day ceremonies (and Anzac Day is this Wednesday, 25th April).

      • anotherspaceman says:

        And only seems fair to point people in the direction of this recent article by Will Self!


      • tashword says:

        That’s an interesting article, anotherspaceman. I know at times I am disappointed to not be able to use more of my vocabulary and I certainly don’t want to give up our broad language or intellectually challenging culture. I certainly think fiction can use more diverse language – I like reading books which assume I have some intelligence rather than just adding some adult ideas to a book written for kids. Likewise some other forms of writing work well with interesting and challenging words.

        In business writing, however, the aim is to communicate a message and eventually make sales – most people won’t stick with complex words if they just want to buy a CD, bike part or clothes so simplicity gets the message across.

        Likewise, in things like procedures, simplicity is a must because the steps must be clear to be followed correctly. If I’m trying to use new software, for example, I don’t want to have to think hard about the words themselves as the software is probably enough of a challenge!

  • Anna T says:

    Thank you for sharing! I had also not ever heard of the word “contemn.” That is a new one that I’ll have to remember to use the next time it will fit with something I say to my husband. I know it will thoroughly confuse him.

  • onlinebusinessgal says:

    I am glad I am not the only one who had not heard the word contemn anymore. I guess that means I was not likely to have used the word incorrectly :-). I, too enjoy when I hear a new word and can then add it to my own vocabulary.

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