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Beemer

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Being Picky with Words [Mar. 17th, 2005|12:11 am]
Beemer
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?
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: dcseain
2005-03-17 10:08 am (UTC)
[By contrast, I'll fight forever before I stop using was/were subjunctive, where the distinction does seem important to me.]

I concur. Ah, the joys of an unregulated, living, language. :)
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[User Picture]From: dpolicar
2005-03-17 11:38 am (UTC)
Related to past participles... I recently discovered that "nake" was once a verb, meaning "to remove the clothes of", but has dropped out of usage in all forms except "naked". I'd like to revive it.
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[User Picture]From: dcseain
2005-03-17 12:19 pm (UTC)
Cool. So one can nake oneself, or another. Could one nake a peach or an orange?
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[User Picture]From: dpolicar
2005-03-17 12:43 pm (UTC)
Presumably only if it was clothed to begin with.
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[User Picture]From: melted_snowball
2005-03-17 12:55 pm (UTC)
I don't see why not...

yes, dan? >> oed nake
... To make naked, in various lit. and fig. senses; to bare, lay
bare, strip, unsheathe, etc. ...
...
1607 TOURNEUR Rev. Trag. V. i, Come, be ready: nake
your swords; thinke of your wrongs
...

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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2005-03-17 01:06 pm (UTC)
I ♥ the OED.
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[User Picture]From: melted_snowball
2005-03-17 01:09 pm (UTC)
Even better, though, is to have it as a Unix command.

[We have the miniaturized, 4-page-on-a-page, version at home. But the Unix one is a lot easier to use...]
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[User Picture]From: madbodger
2005-03-18 06:42 pm (UTC)
This came up with me and amyntas the a while back when one of us misspelled "make me". Heh.
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