Monday, October 13, 2014

The End

Subtle differences exist in the meanings of many words that we think of as synonyms. Happiness, joy, felicity, bliss, and ecstasy, for example, mean roughly the same thing but there are connotations that determine the most appropriate one to use.  The same is true for anger, rage, ire, fury, and wrath and many other similar meaning words.  

Most dictionaries, for example, list finished, complete, concluded, ended, and done as having the same meaning. But a competition in London (probably apocryphal) asked entrants to provide an “easy-to-understand” explanation of the difference between two of those words—finished and complete.  The winner, whose prize was reported to be dinner with Queen Elizabeth and a case of El Dorado rum (not necessarily in that order), offered this distinction: 

“If a man marries the right woman, he is complete.  If he marries the wrong woman, he is finished. And if the right one catches him with the wrong one, he is completely finished.” 

The Bard of Buffalo Bayou was completely finished before he ever started, but he just won’t quit.  A case of El Dorado rum will be given to the person who can force him to retire.  On second thought, let’s give the rum to the Bard and see if that puts a crimp in his style.

            Finished, through, complete, terminated,
            Brought to a close and then consummated,
            All over, done, concluded, and ended,
            Wound up, and clinched, and finally suspended,
            Lapsed, and then waned, topped off, and expired—
            Gee, it’s no wonder that I am so tired!

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