Friday, April 15, 2011

Censure, Censor, Sensor, Censer

One good homophone deserves another. Last week I touched on the palate/palette/palate homophone, and this week it's on to censure/censor/sensor/censer--another one that is seen misused far too often.

Censure: to judge, especially to condemn; the official declaration of condemnation. While not a strict homophone, people mistake it often enough to include here.

Censor: an official or expert who oversees the quality of art, the public morality, and other such things. Also, the act of censoring. In the past couple centuries especially, censoring has been seen in a pejorative sense, partly because "censor" has referred so often to officials who screen material in order to control military or social norms.

Sensor: something that senses and observes its environment, especially an electronic sensor (these days); also biological sensors (in the body, for example).

Censer: vessel in which incense (see the common root?) is burned.