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Don’t Assume Too Much

I’m sure you know what happens when you assume too much. But if you understand the distinction between assume and presume, you can avoid the resulting embarrassment.

Both assume and presume mean to believe something is true or will happen before it does. The distinction between these two words is in the degree of certainty. To assume something is to have only an instinct or gut feeling, not necessarily any fact or proof on which to base your assumption.

When I find a new scratch on my ninety-year-old neighbor’s vehicle, I might assume someone sideswiped him. Or he got a little too close to a wall. Continue Reading…

Requisite,  Prerequisite,  and Perquisite

Does your job come with perks? The word perk comes from perquisite—not to be confused with prerequisite. Those two words can be quite a mouthful and easy to confuse.

Let’s take a look at these three similar-sounding words:

  • Perquisite: A perk is a privilege or benefit given in addition to salary. Those season tickets to the local baseball team and discounts on company products are perks or perquisites. Employers are not required to provide them, and it’s probably best if you don’t consider them either a prerequisite or a requisite if you’re job hunting.
  • Requisite: This means requirement. Prerequisites are conditions that must be met prior to an event or opportunity. Both carry the idea of something needing to be in place before something can occur. Prerequisite includes a time element, requisite does not.

Thus you would correctly say: Algebra I is a prerequisite for Calculus. Students must demonstrate competency in a lower level math course before they are allowed to take a more advanced course. Continue Reading…

Are You in a Dilemma or a Predicament?

When Oliver Hardy of the Laurel and Hardy comedy team accused his friend and partner Stan of getting them “into another fine mess,” was he referring to a dilemma or a predicament?

The distinction may be subtle. Both involve troublesome situations, though a predicament is generally seen as less dire than a dilemma. Predicament generally means “a difficult or trying situation.”

With his right arm wedged beneath a boulder in a remote area of Utah, Aron Ralston faced the dilemma of choosing between starving to death before he was found or amputating his arm and rappelling to safety. He was literally between a rock and a hard place, with these two “equally unsatisfactory alternatives,” as Merriam-Webster describes the word dilemma. Neither choice offered a positive outcome. Ralston chose amputation and lived to tell about it. Continue Reading…

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