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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Can This Be Right? (1st Winter Edition)

Inspired by Mark Forsyth's 2011 book "The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll Through The Hidden Connections Of The English Language", I've decided "Can This Be Right?" needs to be a biannual series, effective this year. Since I've already compiled a list of more than forty words that neither look nor sound like what they actually mean, at three words per post, I'm good until around 2021. And please remember - I want to know which words make you scratch your head.

1.) approbation: approval, commendation, sanction. Can this be right? Although lots of words sharing prefixes have similar meanings - e.g. propensity and proclivity - approbation and approval just don't feel linked somehow. I've got a visual to help me with this confounding word - an ex-con getting a medal.    

2.) bagatelle: something of little value; a trifle. Come on! How can this be right? How many people have you heard use this word correctly? Were they standing in line at the supermarket or waiting to pay for their breakfast?

3.) redoubtable: that is to be feared; formidable. As with previous complimentary adjectives featured in this series (e.g. comely, natty), I'll bet money a smart football linebacker would be confused or perhaps think you were being insulting calling him "redoubtable". If you doubt this, try using the word on a dimwitted 6'8" 275 pound wrestler and then call me from your hospital bed. You might then ask yourself - Can This Be Right?   

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