Words and Phrases De-Mystified

A selection of Words and Phrases demystified to become second nature to me as a writer. An organic list. Perhaps these will be of help to you too, Dear Reader / Writer!

When reading a novel, newspaper article or magazine, often I’ve found words incorrectly used or mis-spelt. Great horrors when I too am guilty!

To help me on my journey as a writer I started compiling lists, you know, spelling of tricky words; spelling of foreign words and their meaning; which preposition to use with a distinct idea (oblivious of / oblivious to); the right verb with a particular noun; an adjective (hieroglyphic) I’ve seen erroneously used as a noun. Of course American spelling often differs.

Now I stitch them together as they may be of help to others, even letter writers. Letter writing I hope will never become a lost art… remember the days when we had pen-pals, wrote to Grandmother and the Great Aunts, Grandfather, wayward uncles?

This list is organic. It will grow as time tick-tocks. There must be heaps of words lurking to trip me and others up! Therefore Dear Visitor-to-this-page, do come again. Additions will be coloured organic green and at the top of the list for one month to ease your revisit afterwhich time they’ll be sorted alphabetically – is that conjoin acceptable?.

Words not yet resolved are in red. Maybe you can help?

Oh yes! In my writing I’ve adopted Professor John Hale’s maintenance of BC and AD instead of the awkward recently pushed BCE and CE which definitely is not “politically correct” because Common Era is not Common to all peoples and, most databases traditionally set up for two characters cannot handle three, and, using BCE and CE on site can be confusing in notes not only hand-written but also with entries into computers! So: BC = Backwards Counting, AD = Advancing Date.

Surely retaining historically used characters BC / AD which now can be interpreted: Backwards Counting / Advancing Date means databases remain unscathed and human error of recording reduced.

What are your thoughts? Please leave your comment below.

Source abbreviations:  *RDGID = Reader’s Digest Great Illustrated Dictionary; *L:BB = Lectures Professor Bob Brier; *FMEU = Fowler’s Modern English Usage; *PC = Pears Cyclopaedia


aba / abba a light fabric woven from hair of goat or camel; a loose-fitting sleeveless garment worn by Arabs of this fabric
abide Archaic: dwell, sojourn
ad hoc Latin: arranged for this purpose; special
after all English (2 words) (not afterall)
Akkadian native or inhabitant of Akkad; the Semitic language spoken in ancient Akkad which was the ancient region of central Mesopotamia, The Land Between the Two Rivers. The Akkadian Empire flourished  c.2340-2240 BC especially under Sargon
all right English (2 words)
Anatolia = Asia Minor Hittites settled here circa 2300 BC
ante bellum Latin: before the war
Argonauts (capital A)
around  /  Round (see also: round) either without losing idiomatic quality in referring to surrounding something or someone. Contextual euphony is perhaps the strongest factor in determining choice except when meaning ‘approximately’ (about); as seated around / round the table. The cheerfulness around / round her.
around and about (see also: round) standard English (most others “round” e.g. round the world)


(about / approximate : around) Played around. Wait around. She’s been around.

as if it were plural verb
Aurochs spelt with Capital A and ends with s (pronounce: au-rocks)
b’wark = bulwark b’wark of timber
batterie; petits battements sur le coup de pied Fr. ref in ballet Swan Lake
baulk English
bloody  =  not a bad word 1700s *Gulliver’s Travels Jonathan Swift
burqa full coverall – travelling burqa had only grille for eyes or could have separate veil to shoulders
caliginous dark, gloomy, shadowy
cavalier (one l)
cement = adhesive concrete = stuff you can stand on
centre / centred English. (American: center)
centreboard (nautical) dagger-board of a sailing dinghy
choosy (not choosey)
coup d’état French


single t
defensible (citadel) capable of being defended *RDGID
different from compared with
double bass (two words)
drown does not necessarily mean to death
e.g.  exempli gratie both i.e. and e.g. have full-stops
embed / imbed e recommended for: embed, empanel, encage, encase, enclose (and derivatives), encrust [but incrustation], endorse, endorsement, endue, enfold, engraft, enmesh, ensure (in general senses), entrench, entrust, entwine, entwist, enwrap.


i for: insure (in financial sense), insurance, inure, inweave

imbrue (not em) (literary word = stain (one’s sword etc.); imbue (saturate etc.), impale; impawn (obs), imperil *FMEU

en garde English
en route French
falsettos As a verb using plural form of falsetto i.e. falsettos. Plural does not gain an e.
forgo / forego abstain from, go without (past participle: forwent; pa.pple: forgone) / precede in time or place (pa.t. forewent; pa.pple foregone eg foregone conclusion)
forward adjective = no “s” forward movement; forward travel.


Look forward.

Adjective: forward play (cricket); sufficiently forward in walking; a very forward child for his age; a rather forward (presumptuous) person;

forwards If you move at all, it must be forwards = Move forwards


Directional Adverb: the door kept swinging backwards and forwards. He leaned forwards.

fouettés Fr. ref in ballet Swan Lake
from whence  
fulfilment English
Ganesh (referring to the God?)
Ganesha (referring to the statue?)
grand adagio Fr. ref in ballet Swan Lake
grands jetés Fr. ref in ballet Swan Lake (Le Lac des Cygnes) grand jeté = s  coupés jetés en tournant; pas de trois
Greco-Italic amphorae  
hieroglyph Noun. A picture or symbol used in hieroglyphic writing. Hieroglyphs can be used phonetically representing a sound; as a determinative to clarify the meaning of a word; as an ideogram where the “picture” represents a concept by itself. *RDGID; *L:BB
hieroglyphic Adjective *RDGID; *L:BB
hierogram a sacred symbol
i.e.  id est


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