Don’t Torture Me

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 on the evils of using the word “problem” instead of “issue” when talking to clients 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 pointexcept for the one clearly perched on top of his head.

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

  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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