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Rapture or rupture: Confusing nouns in English


Since words are the building blocks of thoughts, it is essential to have a robust vocabulary to ensure a clear depiction of situations. In that regard, nouns constitute an absolutely essential word class in any language. This is because the other word classes are used to say something about a noun or to do something with it. For this reason, knowing what a thing, a person or a phenomenon is called is integral to linguistic competence. This treatise will, therefore, discuss nouns that are prone to confusing usages and clearly establish their differences through example sentences.

First of all, note that ‘rapture’ means great excitement or happiness, while a‘rupture’ is an occasion when something suddenly breaks apart or burst. These words are used in the example sentences below:

He listened with rapture when he was being praised (standard).

I guess it was a rupture of the blood vessel (standard).

Note, however, that when used in the sense of the final assumption of Christians into heaven, at the Second Coming (not, ‘the second coming’) of Christ, according to the Christian belief, rapture is considered a proper noun, and its first letter is capitalised:

They are patiently awaiting the rapture (non-standard).

They are patiently awaiting the Rapture (standard).

Again, you need to be sure if what you need is a stimulant or a stimulus. A drug or substance that makes you feel more active and full of energy is a stimulant, whereas something that helps a process to develop more quickly and strongly is a stimulus. Their usages are exemplified below:

Many individuals say coffee is a stimulant, but it weakens some other people (standard).

If well utilised, arts and culture can really serve as a stimulus to economic development in Nigeria (standard).

Two other simple but highly confusing nouns are ‘tail’ and ‘tale’. The movable part of the back of an animal is its tail, while a story of an imaginary event is a tale:

Have you ever heard the tale of an animal with a very long tail (standard)?

Moving on, did you know you can have a thorough observation on whether a person performs a task in accordance with the strict observance of the laid-down rules? If the last sentence is well perused, it will be clear that ‘observation’ is the process of watching someone or something carefully, while ‘observance’ is the practice of obeying a law or doing what is expected according to a custom. Two three-letter nouns that are often confused are ‘oar’ and ‘ore’. An oar is a long pole with a wide flat blade at one endwhich is used for rowing a boat:

The man used his oar to kill a snake (standard).

Ore means rock, earth and so forth, from which metal can be got:

Iron ores have been discovered by the explorers (standard).

Notwithstanding the similarity in how they are articulated, ‘eruption’ is different from ‘irruption’. Eruption can be explained as an explosion or bursting forth, while irruption is a sudden rush of people into a place.

The volcano generated a great eruption (standard).

We were all surprised at the irruption of the audience into the hall (standard).

In the furtherance of that, are you wont to use ‘incident’ and ‘incidence’ interchangeably? While an incident refers to a development, particularly a distasteful one, an incidence mirrorsthe frequency or regularity of a development, as represented below:

I was absent when the incident unfolded last night (standard).

I was absent when the incidence unfolded last night (non-standard).

The incidence of malaria will be tackled frontally (standard).

Not only that, do you say juncture when you intend to say junction? If the truth be told, a ‘juncture’ represents a point in an activity, while a ‘junction’is a place where two or more railway lines, roads, rivers, cables and so forth meet. Hence:

At this juncture of the discussion, I need a break (standard).

At this junction of the discussion, I need a break (non-standard).

He got on a bus at that junction (standard).

Next is the distinction between ‘emergence’ and ‘emergency’.While an emergence is a pointer to the fact thatsomeone or something emanated from a place or situation to become noticed, or that something is beginning to exist, an emergency is a sudden and unpleasant development that requires prompt attention, as in:

The emergence of artificial intelligence could pave the way for an improved response during an emergency (standard).

What is more, the readership should avoid the pitfall of using ‘empathy’ and ‘sympathy’ indiscriminately. While empathy means the capacity to comprehend the feelings and problems of other people, sympathy refers to the feeling of being sorry for someone experiencing an unpleasant situation. That is to say:

She has no sympathy (the feeling of being sorry) for pipeline vandals that are apprehended (standard).

I have genuine empathy for expectant mothers (the ability to understand their feelings or experiences; standard).

Do not forget that ‘outset’ and ‘onset’ indicate the beginning of a development, yet the latter is used particularly for undesirable events thus:

She was present at the outset of the conference (standard).

At the onset of the famine (an unpleasant situation), no fewer than two hundred people lived there (standard).

This article has illustrated how confusing some nouns could be and the likeliness of wrong usages. Consequently, it should give users of English enough reason to consciously and cautiously choose their nouns in speech and writing.