Some Confusing Words

We have many words in the English language that have subtle differences between them. If you know these differences, you will be confident that you are conveying the meaning you intend.

The five sets of confusing words we will cover today are:
Adverse vs. Averse
Uninterested vs. Disinterested
Suppose vs. Supposed
Oriented vs. Orientated
Democratic Party vs. Democrat Party

Adverse vs. Averse
Adverse = unfavorable or antagonistic in purpose or effect
Averse = not fond of; seeking to avoid
Mom had an adverse reaction to the medication.
They experienced adverse weather conditions.
Charles is averse to high-risk investments.

Uninterested vs. Disinterested
Uninterested = not interested
Disinterested = unbiased
Leila seemed uninterested in history.
Because Dorothy was disinterested, she acted as the mediator.

Suppose vs. Supposed
Suppose = to assume to be real or true; to consider as a suggestion
Supposed = intended; required; firmly believed; permitted
I suppose you will tell me when it’s time for dinner.
Suppose we go to the movie now … will that work for your schedule?
We were supposed to meet at the theater.
He is supposed to be at work at 6:00 p.m.

Oriented vs. Orientated
You may use either word to mean “adjusted or located in relation to surroundings or circumstances,” though orientate tends to be used more often in British English than American English.
The house had its large windows oriented toward the ocean view.
The house had its large windows orientated toward the ocean view.

Democratic Party vs. Democrat Party
Both the Associated Press Stylebook and the Chicago Manual of Style recommend the uppercase adjective Democratic in such uses as Democratic Party, Democratic-controlled Legislature, or Democratic senator. Use lowercase in generic descriptions such as a democratic society. Use the noun Democrat(s) to describe party members or adherents.


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7 Comments on Some Confusing Words

7 responses to “Some Confusing Words”

  1. Roy M Warner says:

    I’ve been a lifelong Democrat. The use of “Democrat Party” is meant as a slur against Democrats. Indeed, reporters use the misnomer repreatedly in print and on TV with no one ever mentioning its derivation. I’ll be 72 years old soon and remember well when the Constitution was amended giving the vote to those aged 18; I was in the Marines at the time. I surmise that so much time has passed since the slur was started that it has become part of the vernacular, although it grates on me every time I hear it.

    • That may be true, or perhaps some non-Democrats don’t like the implication that one party has a lock on democratic principles, so will say Democrat Party.

    • BugDoc says:

      I agree with you 100%. Its use has become much more common in the last several years and it is never used by democrats. I think that is enough evidence.

      Additionally, it is not grammatically correct.

      The word “democrat” is a noun. The word “democratic” is an adjective.
      The word “republic” is a noun. The word “republican” is an adjective.

      So describing a party as “democrat” is both ungrammatical and inaccurate. It is inaccurate simply because that is not the name of the group. So at the very least it should never be capitalized.

  2. Mike says:

    Which dictionary recommends unfettered use of “orientate”? Not the American Heritage, which says:

    Usage Note: The use of orientate rather than orient is not uncommon, especially in British English, but it is strongly stigmatized in American English. Those who object to orientate sometimes justify their position by arguing that the -ate is a needless syllable, though one rarely hears similar objections to the use of illuminate rather than illumine. Whatever the reason, disapproval of orientate is strong. In our 2014 survey, 80 percent of the Usage Panel found On emerging from the subway station, I had to take a moment to orientate myself unacceptable, with a similar percentage disapproving of The architect orientated the building on an east-west axis and The building is orientated on an east-west axis.

    • Merriam-Webster online notes:

      Orientate is a synonym of “orient,” and it has attracted criticism as a consequence. “Orient,” which dates from the mid-18th century, is in fact the older of the two verbs – “orientate” joined the language in the mid-19th century. Both can mean “to cause to face toward the east” (and, not surprisingly, they are related to the noun Orient, meaning “the East”). Both also have broader meanings that relate to setting or determining direction or position, either literally or figuratively. Some critics dislike “orientate” because it is one syllable longer than “orient,” but you can decide for yourself how important that consideration is to you. Personal choice is the primary deciding factor, although “orientate” tends to be used more often in British English than it is in American English.

  3. Bill says:

    It is interesting how the word “orientate” drifted into the English language in the last 50 years. I wonder what the origin of that development is. I would guess that it has to do with some mistaken feeling by the first users that it belongs to the group of verbs ending in -ate.

    • We’re just guessing here, but perhaps it had something to do with a link or a closer association to the noun “orientation,” i.e., the relation between orientate and orientation was clearer to some than was the relationship between orientation and orient. The dictionaries we consulted (Merriam-Webster, Collins) say the usage started in the mid-19th century.

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