Channeling Inigo Montoya: “Enormity”

Sure, language moves on, yada yada, and usage shifts to what people most like the sound of, and “enormity” in particular somehow sounds more erudite than “enormousness”, so many people think it must be a more correct word for something that is huge or immense. Yeah, no.

Screencap of Inigo Montoya from the movie *The Princess Bride* with overlaid text

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

So, the proper meaning of enormity.

The Navy might just take exception to your description of the “enormity” of the challenge they face in coordinating today’s International Fleet Review celebrations on Sydney Harbour, journalist dude. I’m certain that they regard today’s operation as the exact opposite of an excessively wicked operation, in fact. They may well be somewhat tense due to the immensity of scale of manoeuvres, of course.

Like so many other usage shifts, the boat may well have sailed on this one (<= see what I did there?). I reserve my right to continue to grumble about it. Humbug.



Categories: language

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6 replies

  1. Agreed.
    Couple of my pet peeves: “begging the question” misused to mean “asking the question” when it’s almost the opposite, and “wellness”. Who, WHO made up that abomination? What was wrong with “wellbeing” or just “health”? I know it’s been around since the 80s or so, but it annoys the crap out of me whenever I see it.
    /rant
    Nice to see the lovely Mr Montoya, tho’. 🙂

  2. From twitter:

    @vivsmythe <a href="http://t.co/eqB63yDLIn&mdash” rel=”nofollow”>http://t.co/eqB63yDLIn&mdash; diva ex machina (@diva_ex_machina) October 2, 2013

  3. If it makes you feel better, think of it as the revival of our English heritage rather than a novel bastardisation. The OED gives an eighteenth century example from Baron Munchausen’s narrative of his marvellous travels and campaigns in Russia:

    A worm of proportionable enormity had bored a hole in the shell.

  4. My peeve is “agreeance”. I’ve even heard newsreaders using that “word”, as though there is something wrong with the word agreement. Perhaps it was on leave?
    The other is the apparent confusion between draw and drawer. Given that I am presently shopping for a vanity cabinet for my bathroom, I’ve seen plenty. Even on the same page in the same glossy brochure. Don’t they have proofreaders anymore?

  5. That was one I did not know. My pet word bugbear is ‘tact’ for ‘tack’ in that phrase for how you approach things eg “let’s take a different tack”. There’s a guy at my work who does that all the time and I want to throttle him. Dude! Did you not read Swallows and Amazons growing up?
    ‘Cos everyone did right?

  6. If they didn’t, they should have, angharad. Not only would it improve usage of nautical terms, it would introduce them to that fabulous hoyden Captain Nancy Blackett.
    Swallows and Amazons forever!

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