English language can be rather confusing at times, especially when it comes to similar sounding words. You may be confused by the words amused and bemused. They sound so much the same but mean something completely different. This could bemuse some and amuse others. Don’t let it befuddle you because it’s really quite funny. Worry no more I’ll amuse you all as I explain the difference so you won’t be bemused.
Both words use the same root of muse, which as a verb means to lose yourself in thought, ponder, etc. It sounds like “amused” so bemused must mean “be amused or be entertained,” right? Many writers, and readers, aren’t quite sure what it means.
Whenever I say that I am bemused, people frequently ask “Why do you think it’s so funny?” Why do so many people think that ‘bemused’ means ‘amused’ simply because it rhymes.
What is Amused?
If you enjoy making people laugh, you like to amuse them, which is a good trait to have as long as you don’t amuse people during a math test or other serious occasion.
The word amused means “pleasantly occupied” or “entertained.” If you love dogs, you’ll be amused just watching puppies frolic in the park all day. If you love everything, you’re easily amused.
Amuse comes from the Middle French word amuser, meaning “to divert the attention, beguile, delude.” If on a boring rainy afternoon, you amused everyone, you entertained everyone, probably making them laugh. If you were ever told, “I’m not amused,” however, this goes beyond not finding something funny — that person might be angry and offended at something you said or did.
- Do you think she was amused?
- I was amused by his strange behaviour.
- Everyone was amused by her silly antics.
- She was very amused by/at your comments.
- She was not amused by the turn of events.
- The teacher wasn’t amused when she saw the mess in the classroom.
- Toddlers don’t need expensive toys and games to keep them amused.
What is Bemused?
To bemuse is to confuse or puzzle. You could bemuse your teacher by writing an essay as a series of haikus, but don’t. Usually a bemused teacher is not a happy one.
If you’re bemused, you’re muddled or preoccupied. It happens when you’re lost in thought, dazed, or overwhelmed (say, on the first day of high school).
Bemuse is not the same as amuse, which means to entertain someone or make them laugh. If you tell a joke, you don’t want to bemuse your audience because they won’t laugh, they’ll be too busy trying figure out what you just said. New situations and weird dreams bemuse some people, so they feel dazed and bemused.
- She stared at me in bemusement.
- Bemused, he asked me to explain.
- The bemused man scratched his head.
- The bemused child looked around him.
- We were bemused by her strange behaviour.
- You look bemused; should I repeat the explanation?
What is the difference between Amused and Bemused?
Both amuse and bemuse mean to distract. Amuse has the positive connotation of welcome distraction: an amusing joke breaks the ice during a tense meeting. Bemuse has a more negative connotation: to distract with a puzzling problem.
I would be amused that you will use bemused in conversation. As long as no one is bemused by my meaning of it. Don’t ever use the word bemused to mean amused, because it’s just too confusing. Do you get it! In fact, you may be amused to hear that bemused means confused. Are you sufficiently bemused yet?
So remember: if you’re amused, you’re probably laughing. If you’re bemused, you’re probably bewildered, befuddled, or confused. So hopefully I amused you with my explanations and didn’t bemuse you at all. I tried to be amusing but not bemusing or confusing without making you choosing to stop reading my musings.
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