|Being Picky with Words
||[Mar. 17th, 2005|12:11 am]
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?
I think there's some other kind of spelling bee that's common in Francophone Canada, which is about sounding out homophones, or something like that.
[I won spelling bees when I was a kid, too...]
You mean like differentiating between Thibideau, Tibidot, & Thibideaux, for example?
(Those are actual surnames of 3 of our Canadian customers, and all 3 are pronounced basically the same, tho Tibidot accents the last syllable, rather than the penultimate, and the final vowel in Thibideaux is a bit longer in duration than the singular.)