We just published and aired a comparison of two words that are often confused but receive little press: demure and demur. The difference of the final “silent” E is critical not only to the pronunciation but to the meanings of these two words. Demure is pronounced [de-myure] while demur is pronounced [duh-murr]. Big difference there.
Demure, of course, is an adjective meaning, roughly, “coyly shy”. If someone asks you whether you know something about a topic on which you happen to be an expert, a demure reply is appropriate: “Do you know anything about words?” “A little,” would be a demure reply from a lexicographer or lexicologist.
The verb means to show reluctance in doing something, to hold back or hesitate in an open-ended fashion. You would (I hope) demur from sharing the password to your online bank account with anyone.
I exemplified the disparity between this word and demur with a comment about one of my favorite co-diners, Cherry Pitt: “Cherry Pitt demurred from the offer of a second dessert, waiting until asked a second time, at which point she demurely accepted.”
It just occurred to me that the difference between a lexicographer and a lexicologist might make an interesting note. I won’t devote a whole essay to the topic but just say here that a lexicographer is someone who compiles dictionaries while a lexicologist is someone who scientifically (linguistically) studies the nature of words in the mental lexicon. I spent about 40 years of my life doing the latter before becoming a lexicographer here at The Lexiteria.