Saturday, January 27, 2007

Are you discrete, or discreet?

Consider the following sentences which have previously appeared in The Star:
"...dining room was plush without being overwhelming while the service was charming yet discrete."
"Xxx's two discrete rooms are the perfect place to entertain business guests for private functions."

In both cases, the intended word was probably discreet. Discrete means "constituting a separate entity : individually distinct", according to M-W. Just a tiny difference in spelling, yet they have completely different meanings. Unfortunately, your spellchecker won't flag this, because both are valid words. These would be examples of malapropisms.

IT-savvy users are most likely to encounter this word in a description such as
"discrete graphics", which refers to standalone graphics cards (usually using processors from nVidia or ATI). Even here, there's also confusion over the two words; if you google for "discreet graphics", you'll get 700+ hits.

Speaking of discrete graphics, it looks like Intel is going to enter this already competitive market. Interestingly, the company is the overall leader in PC graphics, by virtue of its built-in (integrated) graphics technology used on many motherboards. They carry names like "Intel Extreme Graphics 2" though most serious gamers would call them "graphics decelerators".

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