Geeking Out On Words

I’m kind of into words. Understanding definitions is something I sort of geek out on sometimes. Almost every day, I use a dictionary and thesaurus app.

My brain really likes to know the nuances of meaning between similar terms such as productivity and creativity. Context can give clues, but I still like to resort to a dictionary.

Here’s a question I have, “Is blogging creative or is it productive? Or can it be both?

To me, small distinctions between similar words are significant; they intrigue my mind. Some examples:

  • Impetus and Catalyst
  • Compel and Impel
  • Merge and Converge
  • Pantheism and Panentheism
  • Intelligence and Sentience
  • Vulnerable and Insecure
  • Constructive and Productive
  • Confession and Admission
  • Disinformation and Misinformation

Some words are simply just synonyms. Their meaning is basically the same; you just get blessed with linguistic variety.

One place that got me thinking specifically about this is word processor apps–I warned you, I’m a geek. Microsoft Word and Apple Pages are described as Productivity apps. So what do they produce? Writings such as essays, drafts, manuscripts, newsletters, etc. But are all of these products or are some creations?

If you had to pick one term, which would be most accurate? I think you could call them Creativity apps. Or maybe it depends. Is writing fiction creative whereas writing non-fiction is productive?

Accuracy in meaning is helpful and important. Yet I think sometimes people don’t care much for it. I get that. Sometimes pushing for clarity in language sounds like you’re ‘splitting hairs’ or being technical. It’s brushed aside as mere semantics.

But some word geeks like me beg to differ. I wouldn’t go so far as to argue about word distinctions in most cases. But I might debate them. Because “debate” is not the same as “argue.”

OK, back to the two words in question. My mind wants to classify productivity as a more general term and creativity as more specific. But I’m not sure that works.

A good example is that machines can produce things, but they cannot create things. A person can compose music (creation); a machine can print the notes on paper (production).

So there are some distinctions. But what’s the difference? Do you have any words that trip you up because their meaning is so similar? Let me know in the comments or follow-up with me on Twitter!

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