1. If you shelve a bill or a motion, are you tabling it?
2. What drapes over the shoulder of a Scottish Highlander - a plaid or a tartan?
3. Which measure of motion also includes direction - speed or
4. If you set up a phone bank for contacting customers every month, is this a sales tactic or
5. Is eating hot dogs at a baseball game a custom, a habit, or a practice?
1. Believe it or not, it depends on where you live! In American English, to shelve and to table both mean to put an issue aside for an indefinite period. So, yes, if you shelve a bill, you table it in the United States. In Britain, however, to shelve also means to postpone, but to table means to present for action.
2. Technically, it's the plaid, a twilled woolen cloth that drapes. The tartan is the pattern of crisscrossing lines and bars of color on the cloth. Each pattern is associated with a particular Scottish clan, each clan usually having both a hunting tartan and a dress tartan.
3. Velocity. Both terms refer to the distance covered by an object in miles per hour, feet per second, etc. But speed refers only to the rate at which something travels - like the speed of light. Velocity, on the other hand, is 'direction aware.' It refers to both the speed of a body and the direction of its motion. For example, a plane going 200 m.p.h. to the east would have a velocity of 200 m.p.h., east.
4. A tactic. A strategy is the name given to an overall plan of a battle, contest, or competition. A tactic concerns itself with the details of a strategy, and in the case of war, it might mean the deployment of troops. In sales, tactics would be telephone banks, direct mail, etc. The strategy would be increasing exposure over a given territory.
5. A custom. All three terms mean usual action or a way of acting. A custom applies to an action that's been established over time by a person or a group, like hanging stockings at Christmastime. A habit, however, is an action that is repeated so often that it can be done without thinking, as in brushing your teeth. A practice is more deliberate than a habit and involves more choice. For example, you may have the practice of exercising early in the morning.
SOURCES: Merriam-Webster's Synonyms; The Random House Dictionary; The World Book Dictionary; 'The Dictionary of Confusable Words,' by Laurence Urdang.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society