What is the difference between ‘impetuous’ and ‘impulsive’?

(Abhishek, Bangalore)

First, let us deal with the pronunciation of ‘impetuous’. The first syllable is like the ‘im’ in ‘impossible’ and ‘immediate’, while the second sounds like the word ‘pet’. The first ‘u’ is pronounced like the ‘u’ in ‘put’, ‘push’ and ‘pull’, while the final ‘ou’ sounds like the ‘a’ in ‘china’. One way of pronouncing the word is ‘im-PET-yu-es’, with the stress on the second syllable. When a person does something without really thinking things through, he can be accused of being impetuous or impulsive. In both cases, the individual is taking decisions on the spur of the moment; he does things without really considering the consequences of his action. Of the two, ‘impetuous’ has a negative connotation. When you say that someone is impetuous, you are suggesting that the individual is hot-headed; the decisions he takes are rather reckless, and they usually result in something bad happening.

*Raina’s impetuous decision resulted in a huge loss for the company.

*My impetuous cousin bought a car even before he got a job.

‘Impulsive’, like ‘impetuous’, can be used with both people and their actions. An ‘impulsive’ person, like an ‘impetuous’ one, is governed by his emotions. Being impulsive, however, need not necessarily be bad; an impulsive decision may result in something good happening.

Ram’s impulsive decision to bet on the horse paid off big time.

Can the word ‘bath’ be used as a verb?

(V Mythreye, Secunderabad)

In British English, it is possible to use the word ‘bath’ as a noun and a verb. When used as a verb, it means to wash or bathe someone in a tub or a container filled with water. It can also be used to mean to wash oneself.

*Jeeva baths every evening after returning from the gym.

Our little puppy smells. I think it’s your turn to bath him.

Some people think that this use is rather old fashioned. Americans do not use ‘bath’ as a verb — they prefer to use ‘bathe’, instead.

What is the meaning of ‘uneasy lies the head that wears a crown’?

(K Uma, Chennai)

Remember what Uncle Ben tells his nephew Peter Parker in the movie ‘Spiderman’? “With great power, comes great responsibility.” This is something that a man wearing a crown — a king — would endorse whole-heartedly. Being an emperor is not easy, for he has many things to do: ensure his subjects are happy, maintain law and order, keep an eye on his enemies — both within and outside his kingdom, etc. A king who takes his job seriously, constantly worries about meeting his responsibilities. Since there is a lot on his mind, his head lies ‘uneasy’. This prevents him from getting a good night’s sleep. Unlike the common man, he doesn’t find the time to sit down and relax. Shakespeare coined this expression in his play ‘Henry IV’. Nowadays, it is used to refer to anyone who has a lot of responsibilities — not necessarily a king.

*Ever since she became the CEO, Gauri hasn't been sleeping well. Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown, I guess.

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“Bath twice a day to be really clean, once a day to be passably clean, and once a week to avoid being a public menace.”Anthony Burgess

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