Monday, April 4, 2016

Wrong use of words

     Our language is almost endlessly expressive, but it must be used correctly to preserve its integrity and to be most effective.  Many times words are misused, so the language suffers.  Here are a few examples.

     Unique:  The original meaning was one of a kind.  As such, it could have no modifiers.  You cannot have something that is very unique (very one of a kind).  The proper word you want if you’re going to use a modifier is unusual.  Often something can be very unusual.

     Enormity:  The original meaning was an horrific abomination on a vast scale.  The Holocaust was an enormity.  An elephant is not, therefore, an enormity.  An elephant is enormous, or unusually large.

     Bemused:  It originally meant confused or perplexed.  If you appreciate some humorous comment or incident, you are amused, not bemused.

     And a phrase that particularly lights my fuse is “center around.”  The center of a circle or sphere is fixed and unmoving in relation to that circle or sphere.  Therefore the phrase is impossible.  You can center on something or revolve around it, as the planets revolve around the sun, which is at the center of our solar system.  But the earth cannot center around the sun.

     Here’s a list of commonly misused words:

     Of course, if enough people continue to misuse a certain word or phrase, the folks who write the dictionaries will eventually cave in and add the misuse definition, sadly to the detriment of our language.


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