Defuse / diffuse

This is just wrong.

Renault were said to be furious with that retort and Red Bull motorsports consultant Dr Helmut Marko stepped in to try to diffuse the situation. – beIN Sports

Dif-fuse’. (v) Spread over a wide area.

So is this.

Afterwards, the team notified Gryphons athletic director Kristin Maile, who would likely be the one to diffuse any backlash from the greater community. – The Phoenix

The following is right.

Anyone who’s ever had to defuse a tense work meeting or even a stressful Thanksgiving dinner knows that sometimes thoughtful de-escalation is the best (and often only) way to get what you want. – Lifehacker

De-fuse’. (v) Remove fuse (reduce danger).

This is also right.

Studies have shown that carbon monoxide gas can diffuse through eggshells. – Environmental Research Web

This is a royal mess.

‘They don’t want to talk about his record. They don’t want to talk about his inexperience. They want to diffuse this just like they diffuse President Trump’s agenda about bringing up the Russian deal.’ – Real Clear Politics

We’re not commenting on the politics, only on the use of ‘diffuse’.

  • They want to diffuse this just like they diffuse President Trump’s agenda about bringing up the Russian deal.
  • They want to spread this around just like they publicize President Trump’s agenda about bringing up the Russian deal.
  • They want to disseminate this just like they broadcast President Trump’s agenda about bringing up the Russian deal.

I am not sure what he is trying to say. ‘Diffuse‘ seems to be the least effective way to describe the need to get the word out. We have many alternatives: ‘broadcast’, ‘circulate’, ‘disperse’, ‘disseminate’, ‘publicize’, ‘spread this around’.

Sorry for all the red ink, it is what it is. What is the real point here? Just that ‘diffuse‘ is tricky, as a verb. Its meaning is nice and clear when used to describe the movement of food coloring through water, or gases through a membrane. Everything gets murky when ‘diffuse‘, the verb, enters the social realm, or politics.

Diffuse

Depending on the context, ‘diffuse‘ acts as an adjective or a verb.

More observation also failed to detect any trace of a tail or coma, the diffuse envelope of gas and dust that we expect around every comet. – The Guardian

Dif-fuse’. (adj) Spread out, dispersed.

The adjectival version of ‘diffuse’ has the stress on the second syllable, and it is pronounced with a distinct strong ‘s’ sound at the end: dǝ-fyoos!’.

It’s a film with seriousness and compassion, though a little lengthy and diffuse. Dramatic storm clouds gather and pass overhead without ever quite bursting into rain. – The Guardian

As a verb, ‘diffuse’ still has the stress on the second syllable, but it terminates with a soft ‘z’ sound: dǝ-fyoozz’.

Dif-fuse’. (v) Distribute broadly, disperse, percolate.

If one chemical moves faster than the other, then as they diffuse through the cells, they’ll create a pattern of different chemical concentrations. – Forbes (really)