Word Confusion: Taper versus Tapir

Posted September 22, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

There’s a huge difference between taper and tapir. For one thing, the latter is alive — even if the tapir does have a tapering snout — while the former is not alive. Oh, I grant you, the flame may be lively and dance, but it still ain’t alive.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Taper Tapir
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; National Geographic

drawing of a taper pin by ISO 2339

“Taper Pin” is MatthiasDD’s own work [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Side view of a taper pin drawing by ISO 2339.

Tapirus indicus, Zoological Garden, Stuttgart, Germany

“Schabrackentapir” is Fritz Geller-Grimm’s own work [CC BY-SA 2.5 or CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

A Tapirus indicus at the Zoological Garden in Stuttgart.

Part of Grammar:
Noun; Verb, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: tapers
Past tense or past participle: tapered
Gerund or present participle: tapering

Plural: tapirs
A slender candle

  • A wick coated with wax, used for conveying a flame

A gradual narrowing

  • A gradual or incremental reduction of width or thickness in an elongated object

Gradual decrease of force, capacity, etc.

Anything having a tapering form, such as a spire or obelisk

A person who records or edits magnetic tape, videotape, etc.

Verb, intransitive:
Diminish or reduce or cause to diminish or reduce in thickness toward one end

  • Gradually lessen
  • Become lean

Verb, transitive:
Diminish or reduce or cause to diminish or reduce in thickness toward one end

A nocturnal hoofed mammal with a stout body, sturdy limbs, and a short flexible proboscis, native to the forests of tropical America and Malaysia
She lit the tapers with a slender matchstick.

A flat wick is commonly used in tapers.

We have to apply the current industry standard taper of 5 degrees.

The marathon taper can be an incredibly challenging phase during a training plan.

Verb, intransitive:
The tail tapers to a rounded tip.

The impact of the dollar’s depreciation started to taper off.

The leaf tapers at the tip.

The storm is beginning to taper off.

Verb, transitive:
David asked my dressmaker to taper his trousers.

Cigarette pants taper in tightly at the ankle.

Tapirs look something like pigs with trunks, but they are actually related to horses and rhinoceroses.

Tapirs have a short prehensile (gripping) trunk, which is really an extended nose and upper lip.

There are four tapir species.

The woolly tapir lives in the Andes and is the smallest of the four.

Adjective: untapered, untapering
Adverb: taperingly
Noun: taperer
History of the Word:
Old English denoting any wax candle. Its dissimilated form by switching from p- to t- from the Latin papyrus, for the pith which was used for candle wicks. Late 18th century, via Spanish and Portuguese from Tupi tapyra.

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C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

Pinterest Photo Credits

“Tapir at San Diego Zoo” by Sepht~commonswiki assumed (based on copyright claims). [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons.

“Bretagne” is H. Grobe’s own work [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.