Beemer (dr_tectonic) wrote,
Beemer
dr_tectonic

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?
Subscribe

  • The Dependency Principle and the Litany Against Fear

    Two thoughts on COVID-19: First, from Iain M. Banks' Excession: There was only one problem with the Land of Infinite Fun, and that was that if…

  • Ultravision

    I fell out of the habit of posting while work was so busy last fall, and now I've been feeling like I need to Say Something Important about my life…

  • Holiday Recovery

    I think, maybe, I am finally recovered from the end of 2019, which was exhausting. Basically, a bunch of work deadlines all converged, most of which…

  • Post a new comment

    Error

    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

  • 29 comments

  • The Dependency Principle and the Litany Against Fear

    Two thoughts on COVID-19: First, from Iain M. Banks' Excession: There was only one problem with the Land of Infinite Fun, and that was that if…

  • Ultravision

    I fell out of the habit of posting while work was so busy last fall, and now I've been feeling like I need to Say Something Important about my life…

  • Holiday Recovery

    I think, maybe, I am finally recovered from the end of 2019, which was exhausting. Basically, a bunch of work deadlines all converged, most of which…