March 17th, 2005


Being Picky with Words

I'm given to understand that English has a bigger vocabulary than most (all?) other languages. This means that English has high descriptive granularity; there are lots of words that differ in meaning by fine shades. I like that, because I like to be able to use precise terminology when it's available. (This is a general trait of geeks, according to The Jargon Files Appendix, which is scarily accurate.)

Anyway, there are a number of words that, in common usage (even in dictionaries), are starting to lose their precise meanings, which would be a shame. Here's the ones I can think of at the moment.

uninterested vs disinterested
"Uninterested" means that I don't care; "disinterested" means that I don't have any stake in the question and am a neutral party.

jealousy vs envy
"Envy" means that you have something that I wish I had; "jealousy" means that you've got something that I think rightly belongs to me, or that I'm intolerant of rivalry with regard to that thing.

nausea vs nauseous
"Nausea" (noun) is a feeling of queasiness; "nauseous" (adjective) is something nausea-inducing.

So the question is: are these important distinctions of meaning that it's valuable to preserve? Are there others we should work on maintaining?

Or is it just obnoxious hypercorrectness and linguistic snobbery?


Firefly game tonight was probably the most enjoyable one so far. It felt a lot more like the show. This is probably related to the fact that we did almost no dice-rolling. I am starting to think that "bring your own plot" is really the way to get games like this to feel authentic.

It also occurred to me that the really interesting parts of these kinds of shows are mostly about conflict amongst the main characters rather than conflict between the characters and random foes. So the way to play it is to think about interesting interactions your character can have with the other PCs and spend your mental effort on that, and use the GM-provided plot as backdrop for those actions, which is pretty much the inverse of how you usually play an RPG...

Sidenote: I have come to the conclusion that my skill at predicting which posts will spur lots of comments is basically zero.