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definitions

Don’t get court…

The Victoria Police have a sign that is used by some shops that amuses me. It aims to reduce shoplifting and finishes “why risk getting court?” Obviously, it is a play on words and catches attention, which is what I like about it.

In case you are struggling with why this amuses me, here are the definitions of the words court and caught.

caught: the past tense of to catch
She caught the ball and won the game.

court:an institution that applies law and justice for society; a defined area, usually with markings, for the playing of a specific game.
Judges, lawyers and jurors come together in court.
A tennis net is strung across the court.

The legal system is there for us, as as games – you could say they are ours. So the word our is in our court…

Bolt of lightning

Thunder bolts and lightning, very very enlightening…

Sorry to play with some great lyrics, but the word lightning always makes me think of that song! Apparently, a number of people don’t realise that there are two versions of the word lightning/lightening – that is, there is one sound for the word but two spellings and meanings. Given people don’t realise there are two spellings, I guess it isn’t surprising to see the incorrect word used.

So here are the definitions of the two words to make sure you know which is which!

lightning: a sudden burst of light in the sky
The lightning storm was exciting and beautiful to watch

lightening: to make lighter or brighter
The sky was lightening on the horizon as we arrived home.
I am looking forward to  lightening my load!

Lightning in the sky is fast and sharp – there is no time for extra letters. Whereas lightening something involves some effort, it is a verb, so it has an extra e in the spelling and pronunciation.

To complement a compliment…

Did you know that compliment is not the same as complement? They actually have quite different meanings so using the wrong word can make a reasonable sentence into nonsense!

compliment – expression of praise, greeting, positive comments
She complimented the floral arrangement on the table.

complement – to complete or make a whole
The new couch complements the room nicely.

Can you see how complete complementary things are as a reminder for which spelling to use?

A principled principal?

Another pair of words that I frequently see misused is principle and principal…

Principle – a belief or moral that governs behaviour and decisions; a fundamental truth
On principle, John refused to watch the parade.

Principal – first or leading rank (e.g. a School Principal); initial sum of money before interest and fees
As Principal of the local school, Mary was well respected by the parents.

The most common uses of these words are often confused and used incorrectly. The easiest way to remember which is which is to think of your pal being a principal.

The better part of discretion?

Here is a pair of words that sound exactly the same but have quite different meanings – yet I’m not sure any people realise there are two words instead of one with different uses.

discrete – distinct, separate, individual, referring to numbers
It was a series of discrete performances across the country.

discreet – tactful, subtle, unobtrusive
Her boss was very discreet about her illness.

To help remember which word is which, see how the t separates the es in discrete.