Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The 'Enormousness' Enormity

Time for another rant. I've been trying to hold it in, but the problem just gets worse. I see it all about me. It's huge. Its enormousness astounds me. It's an enormity.
And that's what it's about: 'enormousness' and 'enormity'.
Why do people misuse the word 'enormity' and completely abandon the word 'enormousness'? It's a great word.
For example:
"I can't handle the enormity of the task facing us." - WRONG. Except that the mistake is now so common that it's become right. And that's fine, as long as people also continue to use 'enormity' in its original sense, which is to mean a horror, a monstrosity, a disgraceful crime.
For example:
"The perpetrators of this enormity must be punished."
But remember:
"The enormousness of their crime cannot be underestimated." NOT 'ENORMITY'! Got that? Say 'enormity' when someone has committed an enormity. But not just because something is very big. If something is big enough, it's enormous, in which case it has enormousness. But it doesn't have enormity! YOU CAN'T HAVE ENORMITY!
Phew.
I feel better now.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am starting a class on grammar.
Can I use you as a tutor?

Val said...

Along the same lines, I get irritated when people mis-use the word 'fulsome', as in 'fulsome praise',when they really mean 'high praise'. The dictionary definition of fulsome includes 'disgusting by excess, cloying' - not a positive thing at all.

Joe said...

You want me as a tutor on grammar? Are you serious? I don't quite know what to make of that. I'd be glad to help out if I can.
And I didn't know that about fulsome. Interesting.