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Today’s pair of words is uniquely American; the British are sensible enough to spell both words the same way. We have vice and vise, but in England, it’s vice and vice. If you’re British, you can ignore this week’s installment if you like.
Vice: an immoral or evil habit or practice; depraved or degrading behavior. Also a prefix meaning deputy (vice-president, for example.)
Vise: a device with adjustable jaws, used to hold an object firmly while work is being done on it.
Vice (immoral) dates from the late 1200s; it comes from the Latin vitium, meaning a fault or defect. Vice (deputy) comes from the Latin vice, meaning “instead of.”
Vise is from the early 1300-50s, from the Old French vis, meaning screw, which comes from the Latin vitis, which means “vine” (vines grow in a spiral, which is similar to a screw; a vise usually uses a screw-like mechanism to open and close the jaws).
If you say you’re putting something something in a vice, you’re saying you’re putting it into a depraved situation.
Today’s Word Nerd was suggested by fellow GeekDad Randy Slavey. Thanks, Randy!