TESTING CREDULITY


Low tide on our beach.
R has taken up running down from home to this part and then back along the road with a friend and the friend’s father to get fit. I wonder if I should try it?

‘An incredulous thing, to make you incredulous.’  Which word is wrong?

Neither, as each usage to that meaning can belong;

An incredible thing to make you incredible — can this also go?

No, for here ‘Incredulous’ the second one should show.

Annoyingly, people are tending to revive the meaning of ‘incredulous’ to include ‘incredible’, as was the case a couple of centuries ago. Shakespeare used it as such.

The distinction has worked well for two hundred years, though, but now some people who are either ignorant or trying to be smarty-pants are bringing it back to mean ‘unbelievable’ rather than ‘unbelieving’. I would definitely edit it out if it appeared in a manuscript I was going through. ‘Incredulous’ in the recent understood sense of ‘unbelieving in an amazed way’ is too valuable to have it polluted with an additional meaning for which a perfectly good word already exists.

© May 2018 Colonialist
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About colonialist

Active septic geranium who plays with words writing fantasy novels and professionally editing, with notes writing classical music, and with riding a mountain bike, horses and dinghies.
This entry was posted in Grammar, Rhyme and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to TESTING CREDULITY

  1. I could hardly wait to get in with the corruption of ‘awe’, and then found you already had a brilliant comment on it…
    Language is too precious to diminish and mis-use, but I think it happens more these days now that the Authorised Version of the Bible is heard less and less in schools and churches… previously people grew up with the cadences and rhythms and well chosen words of that heritage being a part of their mind’s furniture… people with no formal education used to write and speak with fitting words and phrases back ‘when’

    Liked by 1 person

    • colonialist says:

      To anyone who grew up with regular doses of the King Jimmy, the modern wording seems trite and uninspired. Take, ‘Let not your heart be troubled’ compared with ‘Do not let your heart be troubled’. Just the changes in word-order would have made it impossible for my mother to have written a lovely sacred song featuring the words of that verse — or at least one that didn’t sound like ‘pass the mustard’.

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  2. Calmgrove says:

    Reminds me of how the word ‘awe’ — meaning a kind of reverence shading to fear — in various words has assumed different weightings. We can be ‘awe-struck’, which to me conveys that sense of having reverence; while ‘awful’ (which should imply being full of awe, or having the power to convey that awe) tends to incline towards the bad end of a state of affairs, as in the comparable modern meaning of ‘dreadful’, though as an adjective its strength has weakened with both overuse and misuse. (“Those clothes look awful on you.”)

    And then we come to the weakest of all awe’s manifestations: ‘awesome’, a word now sucked dry of any real meaning, reduced to the blandness of ‘nice’ or even ‘okay’.

    Meanwhile ‘awe’ is frequently misspelled as ‘aw’. This John Wayne joke illustrates it exactly:

    The great actor was playing the centurion present at Jesus’ crucifixion. “Truly this was the Son of God,” he drawled. “More awe, John, please,” asked the director, and the great actor complied, drawing “Aw, truly this was the Son of God.”

    Hmm, I like these musings as much as your own above, so methinks I shall include them in mine own post… 😁

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  3. Barb says:

    I’m going to start using this word more. A lot of things lately make me incredulous. :).

    Like

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