Nathaniel Hawthorne once wrote, “Words—so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.”
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.