Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"Adverse" and "Averse"

For the foreseeable future, I am going to try to straighten out the differences between or among words that are often confused. I will rate each set of confusing words as to their “distractibility,” that is, the degree to which readers will be distracted from the writers' meaning if they fail to use the accurate word. * = Who cares? ** = Some people will be distracted. *** = Many people will be distracted. Usage problems distract readers from concentrating on meaning.

Some mistakes are downright laughable. Not long ago, a headline in the West Chester, PA, Daily Local News confused the word “Annunciation” and “Enunciation.” An annunciation is an announcement. In the Christian tradition, the feast of the Annunciation celebrates the angel’s announcement that the Virgin Mary was with child. “Enunciation” means to pronounce or articulate. The substitution of “annunciation” for “enunciation” was such a laugher that I even forget what the article was about. How’s that for distraction?

Question: What’s the difference between “adverse” and “averse”?

Answer: “Adverse” = opposed, “…adverse circumstances….”
“Averse” = unwilling, reluctant, “…averse to taking a risk….”

Rating of Distractibility: **

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