Dam - damn

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Don't confuse two good old English words: dam and damn. Though they are spelled differently, they sound exactly the same.

  • A dam is a construction that blocks up water, and sometimes other liquids. There is a great dam at Aswan, on the River Nile in Egypt. (In older English, and currently in breeding racehorses and other animals, dam can also mean a mother.)

The same spelling is used for the associated verb, literally, as in 'China is damming the Yangtse River' or figuratively, e.g. 'He dammed up his feelings'.

  • To damn is a - now mild - swear-word. It is a religious form of the commoner word condemn. Whereas a judge in our society on earth might 'condemn a thief to six months in prison', God 'damns sinners to Hell'. This means that God condemns bad people to everlasting punishment.

There is a similar noun, as can be seen in expressions like 'I don't give a damn', which means 'I couldn't care less'. Otherwise this noun is quite rare.