Don’t Torture Me: Tortuous, Torturous

Sometimes, learning grammar rules can be torturous. Or is it tortuous?

Be careful with these two words; the second -r makes all the difference. Torturous has torture as its root, and it means that something is very painful, that is, causes torture. Having to sit through a 45-minute meeting was torturous.

Tortuous (without the second -r) refers to something that has many twists and turns, as in Malibu Canyon is a tortuous road. Tortuous also can refer to something that has many twists and turns psychologically, that is, is circuitous, as in His argument was so tortuous that I never quite saw his point.

So, is learning grammar rules torturous or tortuous? I suppose depending on who’s doing the teaching, it can be both.


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1 Response to Don’t Torture Me: Tortuous, Torturous

  1. SteveU says:

    And don’t forget tortious, from the root tort, meaning a wrongful act which could subject the perpetrator to civil liability. I’m sure there are lawyers who could think up a theory by which learning grammar rules could be tortious.

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