Which Word Wednesday: Shudder vs. Shutter

By July 16, 2014 language No Comments

testing . . . testing . . . any word nerds still with me?

It’s been months since we’ve had a good word discussion here. How I’ve missed our Which Word Wednesdays! Let’s get back in the swing of things with a word pair that is easily confused: shudder and shutter.

Like most confusing pairs, the difficulty here is knowing the correct word for the context. In conversation, these words sound a lot alike because our pronunciation can get a bit sloppy. Generally, however, we understand the intention from the context. In writing, our poor choice is more obvious. We need to know the definitions if we are going to make the right word choice. Let’s look first at the definitions from The Oxford American Dictionary:

shudder :: verb
tremble convulsively, typically as a result of fear or revulsion; shake or vibrate deeply

shutter :: noun
each of a pair of hinged panels, often louvered, fixed inside or outside a window that can be closed for security or privacy or to keep out light

Shudder with the Ds is a verb—it’s an action akin to shaking. Shutter with the Ts is a noun—it’s a thing, referring to the window panels that provide protection and privacy. Two words, similar spellings, but obviously different in use and meaning. But how can we keep them straight in our mental vocabulary bank?

What we need is a memory hook. How about this one?

Shutters are shut.

Shudders shake the body.

Just keep the Ds and Ts together, my friends. That should help.

What’s my WWW verdict? You shut the shutters when your body shudders from the cold. (Reminds me of the “seashells by the seashore” tongue-twister.)

What’s your verdict? Do you know the difference between shudder and shutter? Do you have a memory hook you use for this pair? Do share in the comments.


Check out previous Which Word Wednesday verdicts here.

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