Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Defuse vs. Diffuse

When you tell a joke to cut the tension, are you defusing or diffusing the situation?

Defuse


The word defuse originally applied to bombs. To defuse a bomb is literally to de-fuse it: to take out the fuse, rendering it harmless. Metaphorically, defusing a tense situation means easing the mood—removing the danger, so to speak.

  • Geneviève defused the awkward formality with a well-timed fart.

Geneviève defused the awkward formality with a well-timed fart.

Diffuse


To diffuse something means to spread it around. You know those department-store perfume ladies who used to lie in wait, ninja-like, to douse unwary shoppers with scent? Their spray bottles are also sometimes called diffusers, because they disperse the perfume in a cloud.

  • The breeze diffused fluffy white cottonwood seeds across the meadow, evoking delight in some picnickers and allergic crises in others.
A diffuser: the perfume lady’s weapon of choice

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