Censer - censor - censure - sensor

From Hull AWE
Jump to: navigation, search

Censer, censor and sensor are homophones (IPA: /ˈsɛm sər/), and should not be confused, through ignorance or by careless typing. Censure is not a perfect homophone, but is sometimes confused as well. Censer is probably the least useful of these to most students.

  • A censer (with two '-e-'s) is a small portable device for burning incense. It has an associated verb 'to cense'. A censer is used in rituals in some faith communities, where, for example, a Catholic priest may cense a coffin or an altar by swinging the censer, spreading the fragrant smoke over the thing being censed. An alternative name for a censer is a 'thurible'.
  • A censor (with an '-o-') is an official, usually appointed by a government body, whose job it is to control information. Censors may work on military grounds, not allowing details of military movements to be published or broadcast; they may work in the moral area, by removing material thought to be immoral, or encourage immoral behaviour, as perhaps parents should censor what their children read, or view on television; and they may be political, stifling the message of political opponents. There is an associated verb 'to censor', meaning 'to examine [a communication] and cut out or obliterate all that might cause offence'. Soldiers' letters from combat areas are censored to ensure that no militarily sensitive information will be betrayed if the letter falls into the hands of the enemy. In Britain, where censorship, particularly political censorship, is regarded as something to be avoided, there was, until 1984, a British Board of Film Censors, now called the British Board of Film Classification. Both, conveniently, have the abbreviation BBFC. This body has always classified films as being suitable for certain audiences (adults only, and so on); it used to direct that certain scenes, or words, should be cut from material being shown. It now has similar functions with respect to DVDs, computer games and so on.
Etymological note: In ancient Rome, the two censors were important people, charged with the supervision of public morals - and maintaining the register of citizens. This they did by counting them in a census.
  • A sensor (initial 's-') is a mechanical or electronic device which measures, or detects, some physical property, such as infra-red emissions, or the presence of some toxic chemical or some bacterium. These were originally analogues by which machines could receive the sort of information that a human receives through the natural senses.
  • The verb 'to censure' means 'to express disapproval or condemnation of' [someone or a particular action or behaviour]. It is a formal word, and is usually a judgement, short of legal condemnation, by an official body: "The surgeon was censured by the Ethics Committee for laxity in obtaining consent, but not dismissed." There is an associated noun censure, which is a general non-count noun meaning 'disapproval' or 'condemnation': "The detention facility at Guantánamo Bay has received widespread international censure." A vote of censure is a parliamentary procedure whereby legislators express their dispproval of what some official, perhaps a Minister, has done. To lose a vote of censure is normally enough to force the censured official to resign. (See also Censor - censure.)
    • Both noun and verb are pronounced with the middle '-s-' realised as an '-sh-': 'SEN-sher' (IPA: /ˈsɛntʃ ər); the pronunciation 'SENSE-your' (ˈsɛns jər/) is also recorded in LPD.
  • The adjective to mean 'wanting to express censure', oddly enough, is censorious, with a central '-o-' not a '-u-'. It is pronounced with the central '-s-' sounded as 's', not 'sh'. Although the current meaning of censorious is given by OED as "Addicted to censure; severely critical; faultfinding" (AWE's underlining), the root is 'censor'.