Thursday, July 03, 2008

Linguistic Patrol: The Chickens, Home To Roost.

Looking up "enormity," I encountered "fortuitous." Oh, lucky me? Fortuitous, hey? Wrong!

Turns out I have been misusing the word for years. It means "by chance," period. It contains nothing of "good luck" or "serendipity."

Ow!

4 comments:

Gregg said...

According to which dictionary? I have always been exposed to it as having derived from the latin root fortuna, which is lucky. Rather than the latin root fortuitus meaning by chance. It could be as simple as an OED vs Websters issue. Sadly I was reorganizing recently and my OED is not within arms reach.

Roberta X said...

Note the derivation here, for all they nod to the vulgar use in 2a and 2b; Likewise this entry from the List of Errors.

OEDonline concurs in re the etymology (forte, L., "chance") but offers no special sneer at the secondary meaning.

IMHO, it is just plain sloppy to embrace ill-conceived semantic drift when there are perfectly good ways to express the same thought clearly.

Roberta X said...

...And speaking of sloppy, stapling sentences together with semicolons is sometimes acceptable but the high-class writer then proceeds to knock down the caplitalizion of the absorbed line. Me, on other hand, well... >sigh< "likewise," dammit.

phlegmfatale said...

*blink* *blink*