Those of us who make a living “combining words” appreciate their power to convey even the most-subtle shades of meaning. I love that “pretentious,” “ostentatious,” and “haughty,” are all synonyms for “arrogant.” But under the surface, they all have different meanings.
What follows is a list of some of my favorite words, a discussion of their shades of meaning, and an example of how it’s used:
• Nonplussed. Means bewildered or unsure how to respond. I always think of nonplussed as that look on someone’s face when they’ve been completely blindsided in a conversation or meeting. Example: The CEO’s tirade has left me completely nonplussed.
• Aspersion. Means an attack on somebody’s reputation or good name, as in “to cast aspersions on.” A second meaning is a sprinkling, especially with holy water. Not sure how this word ended up with these two definitions. Example No. 1: Let those without fault cast the first aspersions. Example No. 2: There was an aspersion of dust on the books.
• Insipid. Lacking flavor or taste; lacking qualities that excite, stimulate, or interest; dull. Example: Why do you insist on writing such insipid, dim-witted blog posts?