Monday, September 19, 2011


Today I declare war on dubious uses of words. The most common issue I see is with the word "nonplussed", which in fact means bewildered but which people use to mean, I guess, "not plussed", except that plussed is not a word, alas.

Exhibit A:

They're super messy. Sauce ends up on your hands, your face, and very often your friend's couch. As a host, you want to order wings but you know your friends have the dexterity and cleanliness of a kindergartner. This typically doesn't go over well with your already nonplussed Significant Other.

I declare this war for two reasons.

Firstly, I think it is important for words to have meanings, so that we can have discussions.

Secondly, every time I try to parse a sentence with "nonplussed" in it, it takes me about a minute to try to figure out what in the world the author means. For example, here I was wondering why the spouse was bewildered.

On a side note, Wikipedia says that the word refute is now of disputed usage. I have never heard it mean anything other than to "deny with reasoned argument", but apparently now it just means to disagree with someone? What nonsense. We already have a word that means that - "disagree".

Now we must ask if this war is a just war. Well, there are a bunch of traditional criteria for jus ad bellum.

Just cause - Certainly met. We can't have language disintegrating on us.

Proper authority - degree from a prestigious institution, know a few English majors. Close enough.

Right intention - For sure.

Reasonable prospect of success - debatable, but I think if we publicly shame people who do stuff like this, treat them like cigarette smokers (no incorrect usages of nonplussed allowed within 25 feet of this building!) we can win.

Proportionality - In my opinion, quite proportional.

Last resort - I've tried gentle correction, but it just doesn't work! I'm at wit's end here.

So I extend this invitation to all those who love freedom and being able to understand what other people are saying. Remember you're either with me or against me.

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