Censor and censure are easily confused words.
The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that resemble words in its dictionary, but are possibly spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted, or what word you meant, it can only judge the words on the page. If you used words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway.
Autocorrect suggests words that start with the same letters. It’s suggesting what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions are pretty off base. They don’t help you out, but they do make you laugh.
Censor (pronounced “sihn-suhr”) is a verb. It means to block or prohibit content, or portions of content, from being shared with an audience, or a subset of an audience. Typically censoring is done by one person to another, or one organization to a famous person.
For example, in the US, obscene words and full nudity are not allowed on over-the-air network television, and obscene words are also not allowed on AM/FM radio stations. (Radio and television that is subscribed to, like Sirius radio, HBO television, Showtime television, and streaming content aren’t subject to these rules.)
So should someone use a forbidden word on television, the audio of the words gets bleeped out (assuming the usage was scripted or otherwise anticipated), and the nudity of female nipples, bare buttocks, and genitalia are blurred within a circular blurry masking shape. But mistakes happen when the unexpected happens. One time for an unexpected exposure was the wardrobe malfunction at the 2004 Superbowl Halftime show featuring Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake.
Censure (pronounced “sihn-shurr”) is a verb.
- It means to formally denounce or rebuke someone else’s words or actions after they have been shared or performed. Typically this word is used in government or organizational settings.
- It means a general rebuke or harsh criticism.
The following story uses both words correctly:
During a particularly heated debate on a water quality bill, Senator Cynthia Thompson, a member of the minority party, dropped an f-bomb. She was immediately censured by the majority party. The majority leader also attempted to censor her contributions to future debates. When she asked to have the floor, he declined, and said “we cannot afford another spectacle like the last one you caused, Senator.”
It wasn’t that they hadn’t heard the word before, although it was unconventional for the Senate floor. Rather, this issue was contentious one, and this Senator Thompson was a thorn in their side. Lobbyists for major companies had a vested interest in no one getting in their way or questioning their waste management practices in her district. The f-bomb incident was just an excuse to silence her arguments. Senator Thompson passed on her findings to her Senate peers. Pediatricians in her district had shared with her that showed children’ blood samples indicated the presence of lead. Likely, they were being poisoned by local water supplies where big industries had been illegally dumping their waste for years. The community’s residents needed to get access to better water just 10 miles away. The problem? A big bottled water company, which also had lobbyists, that claimed a proprietary interest to this aquifer was making things difficult.