Search for clarity is ongoing

What?s the difference between a hotel and motel? Seems like a simple enough question, but it turned out not being as easy to define as I initially thought.

When I asked Terry Jones, Marion?s economic development director, he said his under?standing was that hotels have doors on the inside and motels have doors on the outside.

Merriam-Webster defines a hotel as a place that has rooms in which people can stay, especially when they are traveling; a place that provides food, lodging and other services for paying guests.

A motel is defined as a place that is next to a road and that has rooms for people to stay in, especially when they are traveling by car.

Maybe the best definition I found was that a motel is a temporary stop on someone?s journey. A hotel ?is? the journey.

Being inquisitive about almost everything, I kept digging and discovered that I wasn?t the only one interested in finding the best meaning possible.

Decades ago, a state tourism office in Florida offered a monetary prize in the mid five figures to anyone who could come up with an answer to this question.

It needed to be authoritative enough to generate agreement by all as to a proper definition, and thus written into law. Suffice it to say, the prize remains unclaimed to this day.

Some words that are similar have more definitive meanings, though.

Two words that used to confuse me were affect and effect until it was pointed out that ?affect? is a verb and ?effect? is a noun.

You affect an effect.

Or how about crocodile and alligator? Did you know alligators are black and crocodiles are olive brown? But the most easily observed difference between alligators and crocodiles is the shape of the head. The crocodile?s skull and jaws are longer and narrower than the alligator?s.

When it comes to boats and ships, any idea which is defined as larger? Ships are bigger, but the definition can vary from region to region.

Any idea what the difference is between a college and a university? A ?university? is a group of schools for studies after secondary school, and at least one of these schools is a college where students receive a bachelor?s degree.

Being an avid Diet Coke fan, it was interesting to me to learn the differences between Pepsi and Coke.

Pepsi Cola was originally known as Brad?s Drink and invented in North Carolina in 1893. Its name comes from the enzyme ?pepsin,? which is found in the drink.

The main difference is Pepsi is sweeter and has a stronger cola flavor, but otherwise their ingredients are essentially the same.

Differentiating between Great Britain and the United Kingdom was confusing to me, too, until I looked it up.

Great Britain is the geographical area comprising England, Scotland and Wales. Britain, on its own, refers to the political entity of England and Wales only, and the United Kingdom is combining Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Clear as can be, right?

Speaking of clear, I decided to check the difference between broth, soup and stock. Broth is a type of soup and soup is liquid food, but stock is water and other liquids in which vegetables or animals are both simmered over a long period to extract flavors.

Do you know the difference between a pill and a tablet? According to one definition, pills are tablets, but not all tablets are pills. One main difference, though, is that pills are round and a tablet is anything else.

Then there are some things that are different simply because one is a brand name.

For example, a hot tub and a Jacuzzi, Q-Tips and cotton swabs, a Frisbee and a flying disc or Brillo pads and steel wool.

Imagine how confusing it is between similar things, but what about someone learning English and having to figure out words that sound the same, but have entirely different meanings.

Words like bear and bare, waist and waste or pear, pare and pair.

Might be best to leave that subject alone for another day.

Patty Decker is a news and features writer at the Free Press. She can be reached patty@hillsborofreepress.com.