Pick the perfect word

1. Which word would you use to describe grazing flocks of sheep and green pastures - rustic or pastoral?

2. Is it more correct to say that the United States includes or is comprised of 50 states?

3. When we refer to antiquity, do we say the classic or classical age?

4. If you work every other day, are you working alternate or alternative days?


(1) Both mean the country as opposed to the city. Pastoral implies idyllic simplicity and serene peace, and is often used by artists and poets to describe a setting. Rustic means country, too, but it's rough and simple, like a cabin or hut.

(2) To comprise means to consist of all the various parts that make up a whole, so it would be more accurate to say that the US is comprised of 50 states. To include means to contain a part or member, as in "the US includes Hawaii and Alaska." If you say the US includes 50 states, you're suggesting erroneously that the US is comprised of more than that.

(3) Classical refers to the ancient cultures of Greece and Rome. A classical language would be Greek or Latin. Classic means of the best or highest quality or "a perfect example," as in "a classic response." "The classics" are literary works of enduring excellence that include some classical literature.

(4) You are working alternate days. Alternate, in this case, means intermittent or every other, as in alternate seating. Alternative suggests a choice between two or more things. A worker may have the alternative of working a weekend or an evening.

SOURCES: Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Synonyms; The Random House Dictionary; The World Book Dictionary; The Dictionary of Confusable Words, by Laurence Urdang.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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