Mixed-up Meanings

  1. “Asynchronous” vs. “Synchronous”: Time To Learn The Difference

    Instead of going back into the classroom during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, many students transitioned to virtual learning—but this doesn’t mean that all of their classes were held live over video. Some students were able to start the day on their own terms and work through assignments at their own speed. Does this mean their teachers were participating in asynchronous learning, or were these students …

  2. “Strike” vs. “Boycott”: What’s The Difference In Their Demands?

    When Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man in Wisconsin, was shot several times in the back by police in late August 2020, the Milwaukee Bucks took a major stand. In an unprecedented move, this NBA team declared they would not be participating in their playoff game. But instead of playing basketball, was this team going on strike in solidarity of the social movement Black Lives …

  3. Dark green background with teal text that says "effect vs. affect"

    “Affect” vs. “Effect”: Use The Correct Word Every Time

    Affect or effect? Both of these words are verbs and nouns and their meanings overlap. Very confusing! This slippery duo can send even experienced writers into a spiral of uncertainty. Especially, since many people pronounce them in almost the exact same way. Here’s a basic guideline for affect vs. effect: Generally, we use affect as a verb (an action word) and effect as a noun …

  4. “Barbecuing,” “Grilling,” And “Smoking”: What’s The Difference?

    Every year as the weather heats up, grills are dusted off and meats and vegetables are thrown on the fire. To those in the West and many northern cities, this is barbecuing. Just don’t call it that in the South or parts of the Midwest like Kansas City, Mo., because in certain regions, not everything cooked on a grill is called barbecue. The word barbecue means different …

  5. “Net” vs. “Gross”: What Does This Difference Cost You?

    One of the basics of tennis is you never want to hit your ball into the net. Most people won’t confuse this mesh fabric divider that runs across the court with the word gross (even if botching an easy volley straight into the net might feel gross). But when talking about money, the line that divides net and gross profits isn’t as clear. What is the …

  6. “Karen” vs. “Becky” vs. “Stacy”: How Different Are These Slang Terms?

    When it comes to certain white women these days, it doesn’t matter what lovely moniker their parents may have given them. They’ve also been deigned with the name Karen, Becky, or Stacy. Why? These common names are now shorthand for a certain kind of woman who either behaves badly or others like to complain about. As viral videos of Beckys blow up and the service industry …

  7. “Democrat” vs. “Republican”: Where Did The Parties Get Their Names?

    In the United States, the words Democrat and Republican are widely used to mean the two major American political parties: the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. We often hear these words used to describe things the parties do or the people connected to them. For example, former Vice President Joe Biden is the Democratic candidate for president, and members of the Republican Party are …

  8. “Malignant” vs. “Benign”: Which Is Which?

    Although nobody wants to hear that a doctor found a tumor, it’s the word that comes next that makes all of the difference: is it malignant or benign? One of these words has the power to send chills instantly down someone’s spine, while the other can flood a patient with relief. Let’s take a closer look at which is which. What does malignant mean? Malignant …

  9. “Majority” vs. “Plurality”: What Their Differences Mean For This Election

    During the US presidential election, the votes aren’t always split between two candidates: independent party candidates appear on the ballot as well. Presidential candidate Gary Johnson, a Libertarian, won 4.5 million votes in 2016, for example. But what would it actually take for one of these candidates to be elected as the next president of the United States? Does a presidential candidate simply need the plurality …

  10. Nazi vs. Fascist: Is There Really A Difference?

    Fascist and Nazi: these two words loom large in the history books and in heated conversations about politics—conversations that have far outlasted the regimes that originally embraced them. For many of us, the words fascist and Nazi bring to mind the worst dictators and crimes against humanity. But as these ideologies make the news in 2020, used especially in the context of a growing concern about …

  11. “Hispanic” vs. “Latino”: When To Use Each Term

    by Alyssa Pereira From boxes on census forms to drop-down menus on job applications, we often see Hispanic and Latino positioned side by side, seemingly as interchangeable terms to describe the race and heritage of a population that makes up nearly 20% of the United States. It’s easy to see why these two words are so often conflated and frequently confused. But Hispanic and Latino …

  12. “Race” vs. “Ethnicity”: Why These Terms Are So Complex

    by Alyssa Pereira Historic protests against racial inequality. National debates over offensive names of sports team names and conflicts over the place of Confederate monuments in our culture. Arguments about border walls, language barriers—rising tensions over immigration despite an increasingly diverse populace. In this cultural moment, the concepts of race and ethnicity have never been more important to grasp. They’ve also never been so complicated …