So, today we have confound and confuse.
To confuse someone is to make them bewildered or perplexed – “He confused her with his rapier wit until she would agree to anything”.”1% fat or 99% fat-free? I’m confused”. In a linked way, it also means to make something less easy to understand – “He confused all the issues with each other until it was impossible to understand his arguments”. And it also means to identify wrongly – “Is that Busted? Oh – I’ve confused them with McFly.”
Now, confound does carry a meaning of to surprise or confuse, but it’s more used in the sense of proving something wrong or causing it not to work, defeating a plan, a hope or an aim “Her hopes of living off her savings were confounded by the low interest rates”; “Ha! With my intelligence and wit, I have confounded your dastardly plot!” A useful and flexible word, it can also mean to mix up with something else: “in his formula, x is confounded with y, and that makes it come out wrong”.
Special bonus word: to confute – is to prove to be wrong (shall we do confute and refute next time?)
So, a simple rule – confuse if you want to perplex or mix up; confound if you want to ruin the dastardly plans. Got that?
“She was confused by the bright lights, and he confounded her plan for escape by tripping her up.”
That’s probably the last troublesome pair for 2011 – will anybody be on the internet reading blogs next Friday?