Our first lexicide entry was verbiage, followed by leverage, penultimate and enormity. Among our latest entries are bemused, exemplar and holistic. What’s the difference between these sets? The first array consists of words whose meanings get twisted due to constant misuse. In the second set, the words are similar to other, more common words. The less common word appropriates the meaning of the common (and shorter) word, and American Anglophones lose a word. Call the city lexicide squad.
Now you can argue that verbiage sounds like verbal and enormity sounds like enormous, but there is no noun that means and looks similar to verbiage, and enormousness is so inelegant it doesn’t exist in most people’s vocabulary. On the other hand, everyone knows the words amused, continuation, difference, duplicate, example, fortunate, full, guidance, whole, minimal, scheme, simple, static and theme, which are the correct words to use instead of the ones listed above. Folks just choose to tack a few extra letters on and sound more learned. Except they don’t.
Why do I belabor this point? After all, the lexicidal process is the same — people see or hear a word, assume it means the same as a similar word and start using it accordingly. Lexicide’s detractors — those who sniff at our haughty insistence on correct usage — defend this process as natural discourse analysis.
If that’s the case, why don’t people confuse:
stimulate for simulate
emergency for emergence
propositioning for proposing
communicable (think deliverable) for communication?
Something to think about. On second thought, don’t think too hard.
— Otto E. Mezzo