We can attempt to teach the things that one might imagine the earth would teach us: silence, humility, holiness, connectedness, courtesy, beauty, celebration, giving, restoration, obligation and wildness.
David Orr from "Earth in Mind"

May 14, 2007

Please, please use these words correctly

Have you ever noticed how there are some words in the English language that are constantly misused? It seems that everyone I know has been infected with the mixing up of trite, contrite, and contrive. So I am going to set the record strait, with the help of Mr. Webster and the brothers Merriam.


Pronunciation: 'kän-"trIt, k&n-'
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English contrit, from Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin contritus, from Latin, past participle of conterere to grind, bruise, from com- + terere to rub -- more at THROW
: feeling or showing sorrow and remorse for a sin or shortcoming contrite criminal> contrite apology> <contrite sighs>
- con·trite·ly adverb
- con·trite·ness noun

Pronunciation: k&n-'trIv
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): con·trived; con·triv·ing
Etymology: Middle English controven, contreven, from Anglo-French controver, contrever, from Medieval Latin contropare to compare, from Latin com- + Vulgar Latin *tropare to compose, find -- more at
transitive verb
1 a : DEVISE, PLAN <contrive ways of handling the situation> b : to form or create in an artistic or ingenious manner <contrived household utensils from stone>
2 : to bring about by stratagem or with difficulty : MANAGE contrived to win their support>
intransitive verb : to make schemes
- con·triv·er noun

Pronunciation: 'trIt
Function: adjective
Inflected Form(s): trit·er; trit·est
Etymology: Latin tritus, from past participle of terere to rub, wear away -- more at THROW
: hackneyed or boring from much use : not fresh or original
- trite·ly adverb
- trite·ness noun
synonyms TRITE, HACKNEYED, STEREOTYPED, THREADBARE mean lacking the freshness that evokes attention or interest. TRITE applies to a once effective phrase or idea spoiled from long familiarity <"you win some, you lose some" is a trite expression>. HACKNEYED stresses being worn out by overuse so as to become dull and meaningless hackneyed>. STEREOTYPED implies falling invariably into the same pattern or form stereotyped and out-of-date>. THREADBARE applies to what has been used until its possibilities of interest have been totally exhausted threadbare plot>.


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