Monday, May 2, 2011


It's a commonly-used term when reporting on how pols react to things. E.g., "Meanwhile, Democrats are expressing outrage that their GOP counterparts would even consider the bill..."


I can see objecting loudly to a bill or waving papers around and claiming that the passage of said bill will cause the end of the world, but outrage seems a bit strong for grownups to go about expressing every time they are not happy with something.

Besides, I'm not even certain that the word is being used correctly.* Wiktionary offers these four definitions of "outrage":

outrage (plural outrages)
  1. An excessively violent or vicious attack; an atrocity.
  2. An offensiveimmoral or indecent act.
  3. The resentful anger aroused by such acts.
  4. (obsolete) A destructive rampage.

Which of these definitions makes the most sense when used in the example sentence? Probably "resentful anger." But plug that into the sample sentence and it makes the outragee look pretty childish.

(Outrage: another in a series of words that look stranger and stranger the more I look at them. "Snorkel" and "energy" fall into that category.)

* Other words I often see used incorrectly:

"Decimate" means to kill every tenth person, it does not mean to kill most of them.

"Fold" as in "four-fold" does not mean to increase by four times, it means to increase by 16 times. Take a sheet of paper and fold it in half, then fold that in half again. Do that two more times for a total of four folds. How many layers do you now have? Expressed mathematically, it's 24 times.

I'm glad I got that off my chest. You may now return to your regularly-schedule programming.

1 comment:

  1. Origin of "snorkel": 1940–45, German Schnorchel, air intake

    Name for a device used on U-boats to enable them to cruise without fully surfacing for air.

    So it's no wonder the word sounds silly -- it's German.


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