If you’ve ever said the phrase “as the old saying goes,” then you already know what an adage is—even if you’ve never called it that. An adage is a traditional saying expressing a common experience or observation. “A picture is worth a thousand words” and “the early bird catches the worm” are examples of adages. Adage is a more general term than proverb or maxim, which also refer to popular sayings that pithily capture some truth or profundity. Adage frequently occurs with the descriptor old, “the old adage,” which, unlike the noun saying, is implied by the word itself. A newly minted expression—brilliant though it may be—would not be called an adage because it has not yet stood the test of time.
Appropriately enough, the adjective noisy makes a lot of noise in the English language. It is very common, having meanings that are applicable to people (the noisy children), places (a noisy assembly hall), and situations or events (a noisy celebration). This raucous descriptor usually suggests clamor and discordance, or persistence in making loud sounds that are disturbing and annoying. The synonym cacophonous is far less common. To understand its meaning, it’s useful first to know the meaning of the noun cacophony. A cacophony is a harsh discordance of sound, as a cacophony of hoots, cackles, and wails, or a discordant and meaningless mixture of sounds (the cacophony produced by city traffic at midday). It follows, then, that the adjective cacophonous describes things that are unharmonious, like an orchestra tuning up before a concert, or grating to the ear, like a school lunchroom at full capacity.
Time is of the essence when it comes to today’s word pair. The more common word period refers to an interval of time that is meaningful because of its particular characteristics. This could be a period of great profitability for a company, for instance, or a period of adjustment, as for an individual when life circumstances change. The noun epoch emphasizes historical significance and is used of a particular period marked or defined by distinctive features or events. If a treaty ushers in an epoch of peace and goodwill, then it marks the beginning of a new period that, in its absence of war and hostility, is distinct from what preceded it. In geologic time, an epoch is a unit of time (shorter than a period) during which a rock series is formed.