Commonly Misused Words

In his new book, “The Sense of Style,” Harvard cognitive scientist and linguist Steven Pinker explores commonly misused words and phrases.

• Meretricious means tawdry or offensively insincere and does not mean meritorious.

Correct: We rolled our eyes at the meretricious speech. / The city applauded the meritorious mayor.

• Mitigate means to alleviate and does not mean to militate or to provide reasons for.

Correct: The spray should mitigate the bug problem. / Their inconceivable differences will militate against the treaty.

• New Age means spiritualistic, holistic and does not mean modern, futuristic.

Correct: He is a fan of New Age mindfulness techniques. / That TV screen is made from a high-end modern glass.

• Noisome means smelly and does not mean noisy.

Correct: I covered my nose when I walked past the noisome dump. / I covered my ears when I heard the noisy motorcycle speed by.

• Nonplussed means stunned, bewildered and does not mean bored, unimpressed.

Correct: The market crash left the experts nonplussed.” / “His market pitch left the investors unimpressed.”

• Opportunism means seizing or exploiting opportunities and does not mean creating or promoting opportunities.

Correct: His opportunism brought him to the head of the company. The party ran on promoting economic opportunities for the middle class.

Get the list at Business Insider.

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