Aug 25, 2016

"You keep using that word..."



Inigo Montoya (The Princess Bride)

Inigo Montoya is not wrong.

As a writer, I think it's important to stretch my use of language as much as possible. Embrace new words, but keep the prose readable and clear. Except, the speed at which language is changing makes this a far more difficult proposition.

We're all aware of words like IRREGARDLESS, a weird mutation because it's actually a longer word than the one it's been battling against: REGARDLESS. Nothing wrong with regardless. It's a perfectly good word. Irregardless just appeared and now it can be found in dictionaries.

We also have LITERALLY which now literally means exactly what it means AND exactly the opposite of what it means. Which makes it literally, but not figuratively, pointless.

Then there's NONPLUSSED which means the opposite of how it's often used...and like literally is now pretty much interchangeable for both meanings. I'm nonplussed by this whole situation!

See? Confusing, isn't it?

If someone is nonplussed they're supposed to be absolutely baffled. Now though, it means they can also be completely unfazed by something.

You're probably BEMUSED by all this. Or are you? This word is seen more and more as a substitute for amused. And despite similarities with amused it actually means bewildered.

With some words the differences are so subtle it's understandable that it's easier to get them confused. As example of this is MOMENTARILY. If you hear someone saying, "We'll be stopping momentarily to grab some snacks." What does that mean to you?

Originally, it would've meant: We'll be stopping FOR A MOMENT to grab some snacks.
Nowadays, it's also commonly used to mean: We'll be stopping IN A MOMENT to grab some snacks.

Subtle differences but it is two different meanings.

I'll leave you with one more. A pet peeve of mine is the word SUPPOSABLY. Used regularly as a substitute for SUPPOSEDLY. Supposedly is often the correct word in the context of the sentence and I believed that supposably was just another irregardless. Made up. Contrary to my belief, supposably is actually a word, it just doesn't mean supposedly.

Supposedly shows skepticism. It means "according to what is generally believed" but indicates the speaker doubts the truth of the statement.

Supposably means conceivable. Capable of being supposed.

So, there you go.

It amuses me when people assume it's easy to write well, but the complexity of ideas and language in tandem can be far more complicated to deal with than many can imagine. And it's only a good idea to stretch your language if you're doing it correctly.

Are there any words you've noticed get misused or now mean the opposite of what they used to mean?

Let me know.


GSY

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