discreet, discrete

Sesquiotica

If you do not use your discretion in keeping words discrete, your lack of discernment may result in indiscretion – and it won’t be discreet.

Let’s be honest: discrete and discreet seem like the sort of word pair that just exist to be a sand trap in the golf course of the language, don’t they? They’re pronounced the same way and they have related meanings. But if you mix up the two, someone is sure to hold it up as evidence of a woeful lack of education. The English language is like a secret society where there’s a new password at every door, and sooner or later you’ll get one of them wrong and be stripped of your disguise and your power – your discretion and your discretion. And those who get it right will mock you indiscreetly. (Come to think of it, it’s more like an elementary-school secret club…

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