Easily Confused Words: Scents vs. Since vs. Cents vs. Sense

Scents, since, cents, and sense are easily confused words. Spell-check in word processing software doesn’t catch these mixups; if each one is a word and it’s spelled correctly, it keeps right on scanning. A keen editor has to detect these situations and realize if the right word was used in a given situation.

Since is a conjunction that typically leads a dependent clause, as in: “Since Alyssa did not do her chores, she is not getting her allowance this week.”  or as Kelly Clarkson sings, “Since you’ve been gone, I can breathe for the first time.” When you hear “since” there’s more information anticipated by the listener or reader, and more information should be coming from the writer. Otherwise, that’s a fragment.

Sense is a noun meaning intellect, or a sensory ability, like the five senses–seeing, touching, feeling, smelling, or hearing.

Cents is the plural form of the noun “cent.” In the U.S., one cent is a a penny. Most coins, (i.e., pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters) are collectively called “cents.” One dollar ($1) Sacajawea (and Susan B. Anthonys of the 1970s)  coins do exist, but they are rare and they don’t seem to catch on culturally.

Scents is the plural form of the noun “scent.”  Scent refers to how something smells, be it a flower, a food, a bottled fragrance, or garbage.

In conclusion, here’s an example sentence using all four correctly:

Since Myra had a cold and was flat broke, she had neither the sense nor the cents to buy new scents. 


Just Musing: Trigger Warnings

I’ve been reading about the phrase “trigger warnings” recently. Here’s a few bulleted links:

I do not work in academia, and I admit I am late to the game. [I doubt academia or the blogosphere held their collective breaths in anticipation for my thoughts.]

Apparently trigger warnings started in the blogosphere and carried over into academia. In short, students want their required reading to brief them in advance with the words “trigger warnings ahead” or “trigger warning: reading contains child abuse, racism, rape, <<i.e., insert other violence or bad behavior that’s upsetting here>>.”

I guess I understand where some young adults are coming from to expect trigger warnings, or TWs. If he or she has grown up seeing disclaimer-type statements in a lot of situations in life, they might think they belong everywhere, in every situation.

For example:

  • The evening news has made a point to brief viewers about graphic images being shown for years.
  • Movies, TV, and video games get ratings that imply their content’s intensity. Some shows, like Family Guy, even have a list of potential content shown before its episodes air, even in syndication aka “reruns”
  • Just about every music album in certain genres contains a “Parental Advisory” sticker, so do many popular video games
  • We live in an age where food labels are getting a revamp for genetically-modified organisms, gluten, soy, and other content.
  • Drug ads list all potential side effects.

It’s safe to say warnings are pretty ubiquitous in our daily lives here in the States. Add in terms and conditions statements for software, one could easily say we all suffer from some form of ‘briefing fatigue’.

Today’s collegiates certainly aren’t the first generation of college students to have members who have experienced trauma, but they may be the first to request special treatment by their teachers because some students have had that trauma and the rest just don’t want to get worked up by their reading, maybe?

When older people, myself included, read this development, they shake their heads for lots of reasons. Here are mine:

  • IT’S A PRIVATE MATTER. If a student who suffered trauma is concerned about their experiences making their classwork difficult to accomplish, I think that is a private matter between a teacher and the student. It’s possible the student should opt for a different class, if not a different major. Hopefully they aren’t an English major, because they’ll be having a lot of talks with a lot of professors about reading material ahead of them. In the time it took to rework lesson plans in multiple classes, the student could have earned an additional degree.
  • FEASIBILITY. I think it’s unrealistic if not impossible to produce an all-encompassing trigger warning statement for classes of 50-200 individuals that are reading 5-10 books, maybe more. Everyone’s triggers are different, and one person’s trigger is another’s minor annoyance.
  • LIFE COMES WITH NO TRIGGER WARNINGS, WHY SHOULD READING ABOUT SOMEONE ELSE’S LIFE? Life’s major changes come with no trigger warning, why should literature written about someone’s life experiences? Epic moments are not all happy, but they are unforgettable. They shape each one of us. Usually what’s uncomfortable today is something a person is thankful for tomorrow, if for no other reason than because of what he/she learned from these experiences about him or herself. Now deceased authors shared their experiences in the hopes of creating a better future. Future generations covering their ears or turning a blind eye on darker parts of history or someone’s life because these stories are hard to hear are doing their ancestors a disservice and quite possibly, fumbling their role in creating a better world in their own lifetime. If you can’t accept the truth of the past, how do you move things forward for the future?
  • STUDENTS CHEATING THEMSELVES OF THE JOYS OF READING AND WRITING CRITICALLY aka WHY A STUDENT PAYS TO GO TO A FOUR YEAR COLLEGE VERSUS CAREER PREP SCHOOLING. Students are cheating themselves of what a good college program is supposed to do for each of them in their lives if they want a disclaimer or TV guide synopsis of their required readings’ major plot points before doing the reading of the actual books. Reading about racism and or rape bothers you? Thank goodness, that means you’re human and capable of empathy. Fight those things in real life, don’t turn your frustration on books about things that already happened you can’t change. To “photoshop” the past means creating myth.
  • TRIGGER WARNINGS (TWs) ARE CONSIDERATE BUT NOT EMPATHETIC OF THE READER, AND NOT CONSIDERATE OR EMPATHETIC TO THE BLOGGER (OR OTHER WRITER.) The blogger (in bullet 3 at the top) suggested that it’s not censorship to include trigger warnings in blogposts because it’s empathetic for the reader. My problem with this is, blogs, like all written work, are intended to be read in full. Blogposts build connections and have emotional impact, whether the reader chooses to like them, comment on them, or neither. Until one party shares our experiences with the others, I don’t think empathy occurs at all. A blogger wrote because they had experiences they felt compelled to share, as do authors and writers, both past and present. Why would someone write a book, and then give readers the copout to just read plot points? What about the journey or the character who experienced these things, and how those experiences shaped them? That can just be fast-forwarded through?When I encounter people that repeatedly demand empathy from others, I fear they presume they are the only ones who possess feelings or warrant empathy. Worded another way, they expect and demand to receive empathy, but lack the interest or concern to provide empathy to others. I feel true empathy is all-persons-inclusive, not some-persons-inclusive.
  • Which reminds me, that I keep hearing what a empathy deficit exists in our culture, and I truly believe part of is because some kids were denied arts, literature, and theater exposure growing up. They haven’t had to think once about how others feel, why those others’ feel as they do, and others’ life experiences. As these children become grownups, they may gain the money, the time, or both to seek the arts out, but there’s an allergy or an aversion to them. If art exists for them at all, it’s just pretty stuff that doesn’t require analysis, self-reflection, critical thought or feeling. It’s as if the now-grown child thinks, if my parents, school, or church didn’t make something a priority, it’s not important at all. It may be the devil leading me astray so I can’t be bothered with it, whatever it is. What a missed opportunity. What a waste.

Matthew Weiner was on the Tavis Smiley show the other night (May 23) talking about how easy it’s become for the affluent to function in a very closed off little privileged bubble, anything that might pepper their bubble’s surface, disrupt their American brahmin worldview, has never been easier to avoid. It’s another example of an avenue for empathy are being closed off.

Trigger warning–that’s both a sad and dangerous phenomenon. Revolution inevitable. If people don’t know each other, don’t understand each other, or care to understand each other, it’s easier to demonize the other party. The results aren’t pretty.


Excerpt from Real Life: The 20 Year High School Reunion

The first week of June, twenty years ago, I graduated from high school. And spoiler alert, I am not going to a reunion this year.

I attended the same school system in the same town from kindergarten through 12th grade. I think that was long enough.

I was a long-haired brunette and the younger sister of another long-haired brunette. [Why the long hair? Our dad is a total Hispanophile, having fallen in love with Rota, Spain during his Navy years.]

If I was well-known, it was by default. I never felt “popular.”

For someone who lived in the same house and the same town all that time, I felt alien in a lot of ways. We were a Navy family, not a storied last name in these parts. Our last name (my maiden name) was German, but not pronounced ethnically; we had to spell it on a daily basis. We were Catholic. We all had dark hair. In the South, blonde and blue-eyed has been the beauty ideal for a long time.

My circle of friends was the ‘nerd herd’, a circle of mostly girls and one guy who would graduate in the top ten. Most of them were in gifted programs (the ones that let you skip class for another activity several days a week), but I was not. All in all, they were a good circle to be in, even if sometimes I wondered if I belonged in their company. This circle was my date to prom for two years in a row. Somehow, even with my lackluster math scores, I managed to graduate at #9.

I am in touch with a couple of these friends on Facebook. One, my best friend, I’ve been in touch with the most. In the last twenty years, it has become apparent friends like that don’t come along very often. I was fortunate they came along twice: once with her, once with my husband.

This year, the reunion is being planned by former cheerleaders and their ensemble. Predictably, they’re choosing the activity, they’re setting a date, and they’re lobbying their circle to hunt down the outer limits of the class of 1994 on Facebook. It’s $65 a head to hang out with people I had no choice about hanging out with for the bulk of my young life. People who think they know me, people who probably think they knew me.

I think I’ve seen this movie and the ending is predictable. I will regret going, and regret feeling upbeat in anticipation. No thanks. And thanks to social media, there isn’t too much about my life people couldn’t figure out from a Google search.

I won’t say it was all bad, but school was a lot of other people telling me what to do and what I was capable of. Some of my strengths, but mostly my weaknesses. Early on, I scored high on reading tests, but because I thought through my answers before speaking, I was labeled slow. It took parental intervention to put me in an appropriate class. The word “introvert” was unheard of.

I was a daydreamer prone to petite mal seizures. I was bad at math. I was not athletic. I would take walks and listen to my headphones. I spent most evenings in my room drawing, reading, or listening to the radio. I was avoiding a grumpy parent who I was nothing like personality-wise or interests-wise, and that wasn’t okay. I lived with a lot of daily anxiety because I thought every stranger saw me as this parent did and it had me shaking in my boots. I didn’t have my own car. If I had, I might have left for good.

School is full of judgement. The clothes you wear tell everyone about how much your parents make. As your teen years arrive, you can add your acne to how you are being judged. Some teachers played favorites while being pretty cold to other students. If you were a younger sibling, you learned your teacher’s relationship with your older sibling mattered a whole lot in how you were treated (you know, because you weren’t being compared enough at home.) Some Christian teachers were nicer to the souls they felt were”saved” versus those who are not. Some students or teachers with a unique religion encountered repeated scandal and controversy from parents and faculty even though they were perfectly fine people. And probably needless to say, gay kids couldn’t comfortably ‘come out’ in a small Southern town. Even if it’s something didn’t happen to me directly, seeing it happen to other kids didn’t feel good. These were all unfortunate life lessons about the petty, shallow side of human behavior. Are any of these things worth reliving, or celebrating? In my mind, they are not.

When you run into people from your past, you get reacquainted with who you used to be, whether you want to or not. It’s not always a bad thing. But I think the question is, do you want to feel like that person again, yes or no?

‘No? Then don’t look back.

PS: Have a good life, class of 1994.

If you liked this post, you might like” Graduation, or Findings.”

Easily Confused Words: Break vs. Brake

The Derby is this weekend, so it seems appropriate to focus on the easily confused words “breaking” and “braking.”

Breaking and braking are homophones, meaning they possess an identical sound, but not an identical spelling.

If you typed the word that sounded right, but wasn’t spelled correctly, spell-check in word processing software would not catch it. Spell-check looks for words that are missing letters, and words outside its scope of knowledge. If it’s a word and it’s spelled correctly, spell-check moves on.

Break is a verb, “breaking” is its gerund form. Typically, it means to flaw or even destroy something, as when a burglar breaks in a house, or a person drops and breaks a vase.

There are other meanings:

Shoes: When an owner breaks in a pair of new shoes, it means he or she is wearing them for a trial period so the shoes conform to the contours of his or her feet. This makes them more comfortable to generally wear and walk in.

More than other shoes, formal heels and dress shoes need to be broken in before the big day the owner wants to wear them. This is so when the big day arrives, the owner isn’t wincing in pain with each step, looking silly or uncomfortable on a formal occasion.

Training horses or other animals: To break a horse means to train and domesticate it for riding, pulling a wagon, or performing other work. Attempting to ride an untrained horse guarantees bodily injury. The horse would pull away and buck to prevent the rider from climbing on. Should the rider succeed in mounting, the horse would leap about to throw the rider off and run away. If the rider’s fall doesn’t cause injury, the horse stepping on the rider surely would.

Time use: When a person stops working on a task and relaxes their mind for a short period, he/she is “taking a break.”

Habits: When a person “breaks a habit” they have trained his/herself to stop participating in a repetitive, troublesome behavior.

Fortunate occurrences: When the odds fall in a person’s favor, he/she experienced “a lucky break.”

Brake is also a verb, and “braking” is its gerund form. Braking means bringing a vehicle to a stop. Unlike break, it doesn’t have as many meanings or catchphrases. “Put on the brakes” is an analogy phrase meaning slow things down or terminate and activity as if applying the brake pedal of a car.

In closing,  here’s an example sentence using both words correctly:

With practice, new drivers can break the habit of braking too hard in their vehicles.