Make Your Editor Cry: Callus vs. Callous
The homonyms callous and callus sound the same, but they’re not. A callus is a rough patch of skin. Add an “-o” for “obdurate” and you get callous, an adjective meaning “insensitive to the feelings of others.” The words share a Latin root meaning “hardened,” but callus is a noun and callous is an adjective.
A callus is a place on the skin that’s thick from rubbing up against something. A callus is a spot where your skin becomes rough and thick. After wearing flip flops every day, all summer long, you’ll probably have a callus between your toes. Calluses can be annoying, but they’re helpful for some activities. In the old west, a city-slicker might snidely be referred to as a tenderfoot, due to the lack of calluses on his soles. If you’re learning to play guitar, calluses on your fingertips make it easier to press the strings down.
If you develop a corn or callus, your doctor can help you safely remove the extra layers of skin.
Most telling are the smoothed calluses on his fingertips; one of his many jobs is playing the bass guitar for his local church.
Being callous means like acting like a callus—hard and insensitive. Ignoring someone’s plea for help would be a callous thing to do. A callous person is insensitive or emotionally hardened. Obdurate. If you laugh at your little brother while he’s trying to show you crayon drawing, you’re being callous. And maybe a jerk.
The piece portrayed Tiger Woods as a callous cheapskate who enjoyed firing members of his entourage.
I was so often callous to the feelings of others and so selfish.
Now that we have that straight, here comes the curve ball. When you have a callus on your hand, your hand is calloused. That’s right. Calloused. To help keep it straight, remember that callus is a noun and callous and calloused are always adjectives. Here’s an example:
If New York is white gloves and executive suites with callous customer service, New Jersey is calloused hands and backs bent in honest labor along with service with a smile.
Gregg Bridgeman is the Editor-in-Chief at Olivia Kimbrell Press. He is husband to best-selling Christian author Hallee Bridgeman and parent to three. He continues to proudly serve in the US Armed Forces and has done so in either an active or reserve capacity for more than twenty years as an airborne and air assault qualified paratrooper, earning a Bronze Star for his service. Most importantly, he was ordained in October of 2001 after surrendering his life to Christ decades earlier.