Words that confuse the fuck out of me – elision

A word that I never use, but fairly often encounter in programming documents and guides, is elide (as a verb) or elision as a noun.

The reason it confuses me is that it has two different, and almost opposite meanings:

  1. To omit sounds or syllables. For example, “I’m never going to understand this” can be rephrased as “I’m never gonna understand this”.
  2. To conflate. For example, “I’m never going to understand this” can be rephrased as “I’m never gonna understand this”.

Yes, I used the same example on purpose. “Going to” was elided by omitting those two words. But “gonna” also combined the two words. Hence the same example both omitted and combined. The word elide also seems to also have gained a more general, and less literal meaning: To merge, combine or conflate. This wiki has a decent example of the more general usage that seems to be a synonym for conflate. (Actually I wonder if the person who came up with that was simply confused like me, and took the literal combining of words during contraction to indicate incorrectly that elide means to merge.)

What confuses me is that to omit and to merge feels like two opposite things. And in an ironic twist that I forgot while starting to write this, knowing the difference between confuse and conflate was the previous word definition I struggled for years with.

Anyway, now you know. I hope I might have confused you in this post too.

Incidentally, in programming parlance, elision always refers to omission… At least as far as I know. Please don’t tell me otherwise.

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