Word Nerd: Use Your Allusion


Today’s Word Nerd was suggested by my brother, Don Hughes, the best building inspector in San Jose, a gentleman and a scholar and a darn fine judge of Tennessee walking horses and Kentucky whiskey. He stumbled upon this troublesome pair of words when his wife rescued him from the error.

allusionelude: to avoid or escape; evade
allude: to make a casual or indirect reference

allusion: the noun form of allude
illusion: something that deceives by producing a false or misleading impression of reality; a magic trick

Allude (and with it, allusion) first appears around 1525; it comes from the Latin alludere, meaning “to play beside.”
Elude comes from around the same time, also from Latin; eludere, “to deceive, evade.”
Illusion is a couple of hundred years older, from Middle English, in this case also by way of Latin, the word illudere, meaning “to mock, ridicule.” Apparently the Romans didn’t like being fooled.

If you say the criminal alluded capture, you’re saying he obliquely referenced capture.
If you say the speaker eluded to Star Wars, you’re saying he avoided referencing Star Wars.

Jim MacQuarrie is a comics and animation geek, a professional cartoonist and graphic designer, professional balloon animal twister, a certified archery instructor (and yes, his arrows are green), former homeless person and occasional gadfly. He has three children who are all grown up, and an incredibly patient wife who is waiting for him to do likewise. Together they co-write the lifestyle blog Blue Collar, Black Tie.