English Vocabulary

Synonyms: to which extent?

To follow in Gwendo's wake I set hereafter some couples of synonyms that a "good will" could qualify differently from each other. I find it a good way to make one's speech keener.

to play hooky vs to play truant
illiterate vs unlettered
compulsory vs mandatory
at your best convenience vs at your best discretion


  • I wouldn't fit all your proposals, Sandy. I'll just settle for the first one so as to leave the floor to another competitor (lol).

    In many countries elementary schools were and still are provided with series of hooks fixed at the wall of the entrance hall, where pupils leave their clothes hung at hooks before stepping into the classroom. As some pupils are missing the lessons, they are presumed to being kept hanging themselves at a hook. Those clever clogs are told "playing hooky - or hookey". [For info: take it for a highly personal explanation!] But nothing has denied it so far. Some pundits might tell that the expression comes from "to hook it" (to make off). Anyway the expression is restricted to school. One plays hooky from school, never from workplace because of two reasons: 1° working adults aren't supposed to play as much as schoolboys and girls; 2° in most workplaces there are no hooks in the entrance hall as there is a cloakroom.
    I think that many American kids are PLAYING HOOKY but I wonder whether that idiom is more American than British. Big pending question indeed. (left for a further contributor)

    A truant, that's a less cheerful person! Some centuries ago a truant was a vagabond, an idler. Nowadays it is a person who shirks duty, but according to the Webster's especially one who stays out of school without permission. That why PLAYING TRUANT is currently said of a schoolboy/girl.
    In my opinion if you speak of a worker who is absent without being off sick, you could with humour say he is playing truant (not hooky).

    May I take the liberty of a side-remark? Throughout the world about 40% of the children at age for secundary school are playing hooky because of economic and social disaster or/and political violent conflicts in their country. As a result 800 million or so adults are statistically reported to be illiterate. (Are they also unlettered? wait and see!)

    What about you, Sandy. Did you plan to play hooky or truant at New Year's?
  • CS Please correct my horrible bugs:
    2d §, 3rd line: ... presumed to be kept hanging ... (CW)
    last line, last words: ... ON New Year's?

Please sign in to leave a comment.