Friday, January 05, 2007


totally nonplussed.

i've been meaning to look this up for quite a while: why is the word 'nonplussed' commonly used to mean 'unimpressed' when it in fact means 'puzzled'? i would venture to guess, even, that most folks, when asked, would give you the first definition and not know about the second.

i want to know two things.

1. why did it end up being misused?
2. am i allowed to use the wrong definition in formal writing and speech without fear of being chastised? because i really like the wrong definition.

first, here's an acknowledgment of the situation:

"In standard English nonplussed means ‘surprised and confused’. A new meaning, ‘not disconcerted; unperturbed’, has developed recently in North American English, probably on the assumption that the prefix non- must have a negative meaning; this is not yet accepted as standard usage."

and here's another, more lengthy response that negates the legitimacy of the new meaning.

wikipedia, however, in it's omnicience regarding modern truths, gives an assessment that is imo likely closest to what will end up as 'accepted', if it's not accepted already:

"Nonplussed is a state of confusion or bewilderment. It is also a neologism meaning unimpressed."

so then. the answer to 1. is that there doesn't appear to be any good reason for the misusage. and the answer to 2. seems to be that i probably shouldn't use it for a couple more years, unless i'm willing to spout websites in my defense.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?