Tuesday, May 01, 2007

From Bill Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words 4 (Commonplace Book)

More annoying words from Bryson:

Factious, Factitious: Factious applies to factions and thus refers to something that promotes internal bickering. Factitious applies to that which is artificial, such as applause for a despotic ruler. Neither should be confused with fractious, a terms for something disorderly or unruly.

Feasible does not mean probable or plausible, as is sometimes thought, but rather capable of being done. An action can be feasible without being either desirable or likely.

Flammable and Inflammable mean the same thing; the root of inflammable is "inflame"; flammable was invented in the 20th century because too many people thought they "in" meant "not" as in incombustible (something that WON'T burn).

Fulsome is one of the most frequently misapplied words in English. The sense that is usually applied to it -- that of being abundant or unstinting -- is almost the opposite of the word's historic meaning. Fulsome is related to foul and means odious or overfull, offensively insincere.

Habits: customary habits, or usual habits are redundant phrases.

Home, Hone: Hone means to sharpen, home means to seek out a target.

Iterate, reiterate: because reiterate means to repeat, many people assume iterate means simply to state; in fact iterate also meas to repeat. On another point again is always redundant with re- words (reaffirm, repeat) and should be deleted.


James said...

A phrase that has driven me crazy in recent years, and the internet seems to endlessly misuse, is "breaking the fourth wall". Rather than describing the fairly self-explanatory theatrical device, many assume it refers to absolutely any and every moment of metafiction or self-consciousness.

For example, I saw someone respond to the preview of Astonishing X-Men #21 - specifically Wolverine saying "sorry we're late" - with "Could this perhaps be Joss Whedon breaking the fourth wall?" No. For that, Wolverine would have to look out of the page and address the reader with his line - as frequently happens in She-Hulk, for instance.

Anonymous said...

"Home" and "hone" really bug me! I don't know about in your country, but certainly in Glasgow, they're transposed all the time - "I honed in on what she said".

It might amuse you to hear that here, the phrase "you know?" has been reduced to "know?" - "I stayed out all night, know?"

Only Grant Morrison writes Mirror Master's dialogue authentically!


neilshyminsky said...

Echoing james, i'm always annoyed by the way in which every hackneyed plot device is referred to by comic book readers as 'deus ex machina', regardless of the timing or narrative purpose of said plot device. While, say, Layla Miller in X-Factor seems to provide information or uncover a clue or person too conveniently on a too consistent basis, she advances the plot rather than resolving or concluding it. She's still commonly dubbed a deus ex machina, though.

Ultimate Matt said...

Dude, that flammable and inflammable thing has always bothered me; since I was little it's gotten on my nerves. I'm enjoying these posts so much I'm ordering the book from Amazon, BTW.

Thacher said...

I haven't said it yet, but I love these posts as well. New words are fun; better uses for the ones we already have, more so.

Marc Caputo said...

Breaking the fourth wall: I still get a kick out of that - when I was a young man in the 1980s, I remember "Moonlighting" (the TV series, not the 1982 Jeremy Irons film) was all about that and it still gets me even in repeats to this day.

One of the more recent ones I loved was from "Mr. and Mrs. Smith", when Brad Pitt is dancing with Angelina Jolie and he just mugs the camera - stuff just kills me.

Geoff Klock said...

James: but there is a way to read that as Wolverine addressing the reader, as if he is saying "sorry this issue was so delayed."

Dougie: HA

UM: good

Thacher. thanks

Marc: Kurt Russell does it in Grindhouse to great effect.

James said...

Geoff: Yeah, but - for me at least, for the phrase to be useful - "breaking the fourth wall" has to be more than a moment of metatextuality. Wolverine's line is absolutely supposed to be read that way, refers to real-life events and calls attention to the fact that you're reading a comic, but does so through subtext and double-meaning. For him to truly "break the fourth wall" he'd have to say something that only referred to events outside the comic, and broke completely with the fictionality of the narrative. And to be super-picky, he'd have to look out of the page at me.

Geoff Klock said...

James: fair enough