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English for RPGs – Part 11

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On the stylistic side, I've found another word that I dislike on principle. Proverbial. If you're going to trot out the hoary old chestnuts, there's no need to announce, “Look! A cliche!” (This probably wouldn't have bothered me as much if it hadn't been used three times in two pages. Any word that is obviously an author's pet can become quickly annoying.)


altar (n) an elevated religious structure
alter (v) to change

He was left standing at the altar.
With her petite build, she was resigned to having to alter all of her clothes.


bale (n) a bundle for storage or shipping; harm, misery
bale (v) to form into a bale
bail (n) assets given as guarantee of return at trial date
bail (v) to remove water from a boat (as with a bucket)

The hills were dotted with bales of hay.
Pass me the baling wire.
The bounty hunters received a lead on the location of a bail jumper.
If you don't want the boat to sink, start bailing.


base (n) bottom layer or support
bass (n) a singer or instrument pitched in the bass (adj) range

The obelisk stood on a base of dark marble.
The bass player was late to rehearsal, as usual. (bass drum, double bass)


bate (v) to restrain, hold, diminish
bait (v) to lure, to tease

I await the results with bated breath.
She baited the traps before heaving them overboard.


bidding (n) command, invitation, a series of offers
bide (v) to wait

The bidding began at $100.
Now. Now I am biding my time. Soon I will be invincible. Bwah-hahahahaha!


bread (n) baked foodstuff made from flour and liquid
bred (v) past of to breed; produce, give birth

The smell of fresh bread filled the kitchen.
The horses were bred for speed.
I'm a local, born and bred.


desert (n) an arid or barren region, merit
dessert (n) sweets usu. served at the end of a meal

The dunes of the desert stretched into the distance.
Oh, he'll get his just deserts, you just wait and see.
There is apple pie for dessert.


eek – a cry of surprise
eke (v) (with out) to achieve through struggle

Eek, a mouse!
The hardy pioneers were able to eke out a meagre existence.


frequent (adj) habitual, happening at small intervals
recent (adj) a short time ago

One possible side effect of the medication is frequent urination.
Recent events show us that the policies are not producing the desired results.


moot (adj) debatable, arguable; purely academic, theoretical
mute (adj) silent, unable to speak

It's a moot point, continue. (This is something we should discuss.)
At any rate, the point is moot. (Don't bother talking about this, as any discussion has been rendered irrelevant.)
(Aren't words that are their own antonyms wonderful?)
The girl sat, mute and staring out the window.


oppose (v) to act against, hinder, compare

(I wish I had written down the context on this one, but I noticed some confusion between opposed to and as opposed to.)
I am opposed to the bill on the floor of the House.
How do you like the Merlot as opposed to the Chardonnay?


sew (v) to stitch together with thread and needle: sewed, sewn, sewing
sow (v) to plant, to spread (as seed): sowed, sown, sowing

The newly promoted sergeant had yet to sew on his stripes.
The tapestry was sewn bit by bit over the course of a decade.
Do you happen to have a sewing kit in your purse?
You reap what you sow.
The schemers began to sow confusion, discord and mistrust among the council members.
The field was sown with barley.
What are you sowing in the lower forty this year?


steal (v) to take without permission
steel (v) to brace, become determined or inflexible

The group set out to steal the Tome of Azarath Metrion Zinthos.
He telegraphed the punch so early, I had plenty of time to steel myself for the impact.

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Updated 12-18-2009 at 07:05 PM by TAROT (More examples)