common errors in English

You’re fired!

Part of the reason we keep inventing new words, I think, is that we keep demoting the ones we’ve got, and then we have nothing left to cover the real extremes. Originally, incredible meant ‘beyond belief’ (credible being ‘believable’, the prefix -in showing the negative), but now, we use incredible for anything from a new type of technology to that outfit you wore last night. The technology might be ‘beyond belief’, but I’m guessing the outfit probably wasn’t, not really. So we have to come up with more and more extravagant ways of saying what we mean. It’s certainly fun, but not without its problems, especially for learners, who may find themselves saying something other than what they intended. Have you or your students had any funny experiences with ‘demoted’ words?

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Sharon Creese

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