Thursday, March 10, 2011

Homonymphobia

discreet adj Careful to avoid social embarrassment or distress, esp. by keeping confidences secret; tactful. [C14 from Old French discret, from Medieval Latin discrētus, from Latin ḏiscernere to DISCERN] - dis'creetly adv - dis'creetness n

Usage Avoid confusion with discrete

AND

discrete adj 1 Separate or distinct in form or concept 2 Consisting of separate or distinct parts 3 Statistics 3a (of a variable) having consecutive values that are not infinitesimally close, so that its analysis requires summation rather than integration 3b (of a distribution) relating to a discrete variable. Compare with continuous (sense 4) [C14 from Latin discrētus separated, set apart; see DISCREET] - dis'cretely adv - discreetness n

Usage Avoid confusion with discreet


What the hell? I've been getting this wrong for at least 15 and maybe 20 years. Why did no one tell me?

It's not that bad. Mostly I (correctly) use the word discretion which bizarrely refers to discreet rather than discrete.

Homonyms causing confusion. Who'd have thought it?

2 comments:

Susan de Guardiola said...

I never noticed you misusing them, but it's a common error.

Neil W said...

In reality I've probably used "indiscrete" when I mean "indiscreet" no more half a dozen times in the last 2 or 3 years, and used "discrete" in it's correct mathematical sense much more often.

I am much more embarrassed by making common errors than uncommon ones.