delineate or designate?

Alright all you vocabulary gurus and english majors, I need some clarification.

At work today a coworker had two items , same item but one was used and one was new. He said I put a tag on this one to delineate between the two. I said, somewhat jokingly, don’t you mean deisignate? and he took exception.

So according to webster delineate
a : to indicate or represent by drawn or painted lines b : to mark the outline of <lights delineating the narrow streets>
: to describe, portray, or set forth with accuracy or in detail <delineate a character in the story> <delineate the steps to be taken by the government>
now, I can see how #2 might apply in the situation of labeling one new, and one used, but it still seems like an improper use of the word, where disgnate seems to clearly apply.

: to indicate and set apart for a specific purpose, office, or duty <designate a group to prepare a plan>
a : to point out the location of <a marker designating the battle> b : to distinguish as to class <the area we designate as that of spiritual values — J. B. Conant> c : specify, stipulate <to be sent by a designated shipper>
: denote <associate names with the people they designate>
: to call by a distinctive title, term, or expression <a particle designated the neutron>
what say you of brilliant ones.

Neither word strikes me as ideal… But “delineate” is closer to correct than “designate.”

One designates much the way one nominates. You designate your heir; you designate your ambassador. You don’t “designate between two options,” any more than you “nominate between two options.”

Delineate, also, isn’t normally used in that kind of comparative sense. No one I know would say “Help me delineate between these two options.”

The closest word I can think of is “determine.” “Help me determine which of these options is preferable.” “Discriminate” is also applicable.

The word you’re looking for is differentiate.

Designate is clearly wrong. It points to a single thing and names it. Using it to distinguish between items is a leap that can’t be made.

Delineate isn’t much better, although its sense of clarifying and identifying at least leads the discussion toward the right direction.

I think distinguish is the word you want, as in the first paragraph.

Whether it’s proper or not, pointing and laughing at someone who pastes in the dictionary spelling and definition of a word and then misspells it in two different ways - while proclaiming that it is used correctly when wildly off - is mandatory for any self-respecting Doper.

Yeah I would use differentiate or maybe distinguish. Nothing else though.

Differentiate is definitely the correct word.

Faugh! They all begin with D, and most of them end in ate. Same difference!

Ok. Defenestrate it is.

Yes that occured to me as I was writing the OP.

Technically what happened is one was tagged and one was not. In that case wouldn’t the tag designate which one was used?

I’m more interested in “he took exception”. Are you going to be having a duel? Can I be your second?

I don’t have a big weapon selection to choose from - maybe matching machetes.

Oooh! A machete fight! There’s nothing better than a machete to split an infinitive or perhaps remove a dangling modifier.

We’re more the giant padded sumo wrestlers costumes.

I’ll see what I can do.

Maybe the giant super padded boxing gloves, slip a couple of rolls of quarters into mine and mark them discreetly.

I’m already laughing about the look on his face :smiley:

Technically what happened is one was tagged and one was not. In that case wouldn’t the tag designate which one was used?

Yes, but you can’t “designate between” two different things, as you suggested in the OP. You would have to either “designate which one is which,” as you did above, or “designate both of them as …,” which would give you a completely different meaning.

If it helps, use a synonym. You wouldn’t say, “I can identify between these two objects,” would you? Or “I can specify between them”? Or, even more simply, “I can name between them”?

Delineate is a fair, but unusal term to use in this case. Since there are only two items to consider, a single line can define the entire difference between them. But the OP talks about different conditions, not physical boundaries, so distinquish is a much better term to use there. Differentiate could be used, but distinquish would be more commonly heard and understood.

Thank you Dopers. I knew I could count on you.

No, the tag indicates which one was used. It does not cause it to be the one which is used. You may designate one monitor to be the one you will be using tomorrow. But if one has already been used, it is no longer in your power to change that fact.