Every week I demonstrate an example of poor English where a different word is used from the actual meaning. Usually this creates a grammatically incorrect sentence, sometimes it sounds amusing. Unfortunately, the mistake is so pervasive that we all do it and such errors are usually made by those who should know better – journalists working for national or global media outlets such as newspapers and television.
Defuse / Diffuse
I came across this in a mindfulness course I did recently and had to stop and ask myself which one was correct. As it is not something you will write every day. the problem is in pronunciation; people do not know which one to use. One of these precedes “…the situation” but which one? Whenever I hear somebody saying it, they pronounce it like the second word but it is actually the first you need.
Defuse – To remove the tension, return something to a calm state. This works well as an analogy for preventing an argument or a fight
Diffuse – This means to spread something, or to dilute it.
It is easy to remember if you think of a bomb. A bomb has a fuse, the de- prefix means to remove something; so when you stop an argument from happening, you are de-fusing it.