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Compliment/complement and desert/dessert

How do you tell the difference between "compliment" and "complement", "desert" and "dessert"? We'll show you!

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Video transcript

- [Instructor] Hello, grammarians. Continuing our journey through the world of frequently confused words, I'd like to begin with complement with two Es and compliment with an I and an E. How the heck do we keep these separate? Well, first let's get some definitions. Complement with two Es, C, O, M, P, L, E, M, E, N, T, is a verb, and it means to match, pair, or work well with something as in, that hat complements your suit, Melvin. There's our guy Melvin. There's his very fine hat in the same color as his suit, so it matches or pairs or works well with something 'cause these are the same colors. They look nice together, maybe a little matchy matchy. Give him some gold epaulets. Shake it up a little bit, Melvin. There you go. Compliment, with an I, C, O, M, P, L, I, M, E, N, T, is a verb that means to praise or noun that just means praise. So complement with an E is the verb of actually matching, but when we point it out, and we say, that hat complements your suit, Melvin, and we say, that looks pretty good, Melvin, that in itself is a compliment. So this sentence is a compliment. So Melvin would say in response, "Thank you for the compliment." So I can see how this is confusing, so when two things go together well, visually or sonically or however, you say they complement one another. When two people work well as a team, you can say their skills complement one another, and if you point that out in a way that is praiseworthy, if you say, "Ah, Melvin, that is a dope ensemble "you are rocking today," that is a compliment with an I. So you are praising it. This one is a classic. So we've got desert over here and dessert over here, so these words look a little similar, but they are pronounced differently, which is to our benefit. So these are both nouns, so desert with a zuh sound, zuh, is dry, sandy land. So for example, this is a depiction of the Sonoran Desert in Arizona and Mexico. Right, so this is a saguaro cactus. That there's a barrel cactus. That's a palo verde. There's a little kit fox. So when you see desert with one S as opposed to dessert with two Ss, what I want you to imagine is water, a long, flowing river made of Ss and that when you're in a desert, there just isn't as much. There isn't as much water. So one S means less water, means cacti and little kit foxes and gila monsters. Dessert with two Ss is like an ice cream sundae. We got some vanilla ice cream. We got some strawberry ice cream, and then this black ice cream is licorice ice cream, which is actually delicious, and I encourage you to try it, and then this, if you couldn't tell, is a banana. So what is a dessert? So a dessert is a noun, and it is a sweet food eaten after a meal. Certainly it doesn't have to be this banana split, this ice cream sundae. It could be anything sweet, so cookies, cake, chocolate, the sorts of things that you would not find in a desert. So keeping these two words straight, desert and dessert, is really one of abundance. When there's two Ss, it means, oh, times are good. We're doing so well. We can have ice cream. If you're missing that second S, it means things are a little lean. There's not a lot of water. There's a lot of cacti and rattlesnakes. Don't get me wrong. I have had some excellent desserts with two Ss in desert places. There happens to be a very fine ice cream parlor in Scottsdale, Arizona, but what I'm trying to say is that in the landform that we call a desert with one S, you are unlikely to find an ice cream sundae just sitting out. You can learn anything. David, out.