Archive for November 17th, 2010

November 17, 2010


These are most certainly sugarcoated, © Jonny Mccullagh |

Bitter pills are sugarcoated, that is covered in something sweet, like a hard sugar glaze, to make them more palatable.  The pharmaceutical industry has known that for decades, probably centuries and so we have all sorts of sugarcoated pills, bitter medicines on lump sugar, etc.

Figuratively sugarcoating something means the same thing, to make a thing, fact, decision, story, etc appear more pleasant or appealing.  Just as with the bitter medicine the implication is that the reality has faults and problems that are being hidden by the sweet coating.

This is a very common expression and concept and applies especially to all things relating to politics and business but is also applicable in the personal space.  A couple of examples:

Example 1:

Employee after an all-hands meeting: “They are planning to outsource IT and they are trying to sugarcoat it by telling us how much more efficient the company will be and how much easier our jobs will be once they have done so.”

Example 2:

Girl-friend 1: “Wow, Susan sure told Jennifer what she thinks of her latest plan.”

Girl-friend 2: “Yes, Susan has strong opinions and she doesn’t sugarcoat them either.”

November 17, 2010

Word confusion, part 4

Principal – Principle
This is a tough one which tends to create confusion or worse yet, does not create confusion because people get it wrong and don’t even realize that they do.
Principal has three main meanings/usages:
  • a person who holds a position of high rank, often the head of  school.  “My friend Judy just became principal of Fairview Elementary School.”
  • Sometimes the term is used to refer to people in leading positions in small companies.  Example: “Hi, I am Melinda, a principal of Melinda Miller Consulting.”
  • It also refers to the original amount of a debt on which interest is calculated.  “your principal is $10,000, at 8% your monthly interest payments are $66.67.”

Principal is also an adjective that means primary or main.  “My principal reason for turning down the job was that it didn’t come with a benefit package.”

Principle is a noun which means a basic truth or law, a rule or (ethical) standard.  Examples:  “the principles of democracy”, “he is a man of high principles.”  “He is a vegetarian out of principle not because he doesn’t like meat.”