Flammable, inflammable, etc.

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  • Reply 21 of 26
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post


    You are the single polite responder so I picked you to respond to.



    Sorry "Tulkas" and "tonton" I've decided to follow Tulkas' example and report all forum violations from now on so consider yourself reported.



    The problem here is that it isn't a word to me because I'm an English person born in England and use English (as defined by the Oxford dictionary) as my guide. It's the only official guide to English there is (sorry Webster's users). My copy of Oxfords says precisely what I am saying.



    So after admitting I forgot about the newer American uses ("Flammable" actually hasn't been in use that long of a time, I'm not *that* old), I am still getting beat up here. No one has anything more constructive to do I guess?



    Facts is facts, and I don't want to be rude, but whether it's used in the USA or in Webster's has not much to do with official "English." We (the English) did actually think up the language first after all.



    I would also like to repeat for those that didn't get it, that the original poster seemed to be referring to language confusion between pairs of words of this type. For many many years one of the classic examples of this (which the poster deliberately referred to), is the whole flammable /inflammable/nonflammable/noninflammable thing which I think we can all agree is a source of confusion for many and has been for a long time. The flammable/noninflammable example was the standard example of this kind of prefix confusion used in classroom for decades. This is in fact the very reason the change was made in the USA; because lot's of people didn't understand the original.



    So regardless of anything else, what I originally commented was actually rather spot on and completely appropriate and accurate. I don't understand why everyone is taking this so personal and using it as an opportunity to criticise me personally.



    "Flammable" was a word long before "internet" was a word. And they are both words. Whether they are as old as you is not relevant. They are both words. You said "flammable" was not. You were wrong. Then you ridiculed Tulkas for pointing out that you were wrong. If anyone in this thread is out of line, it is you.
  • Reply 22 of 26
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post


    You are the single polite responder so I picked you to respond to.



    Sorry "Tulkas" and "tonton" I've decided to follow Tulkas' example and report all forum violations from now on so consider yourself reported.



    I can't find a single report that Tulkas has made, I don't know what you're talking about. It would be nice if you didn't report every single post that you don't like, it was getting annoying. I also noticed that you reported one of your own posts.
  • Reply 23 of 26
    anonymouseanonymouse Posts: 6,577member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post


    I can't find a single report that Tulkas has made, I don't know what you're talking about. It would be nice if you didn't report every single post that you don't like, it was getting annoying. I also noticed that you reported one of your own posts.



    Well, who hasn't felt that he should report one of his own posts? But then most of us notice the edit button.
  • Reply 24 of 26
    dr millmossdr millmoss Posts: 5,403member
    "The glorious thing about the English language is that you can not only argue in it, you can argue about it."



    Who said that?
  • Reply 25 of 26
    midwintermidwinter Posts: 10,060member
    [English professor mode]



    I'm sure this came up already, but "flammable" is a recent coinage and emerges really from confusion over whether "inflammable" means "not flammable." As Strunk and White put it in the "frequently misused words and expressions," it's an "oddity" and is used chiefly for the protection of "children and illiterates."



    Anyway. Here's what the OED says:



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by The OED


    FLAMMABLE = INFLAMMABLE. Revived in modern use: cf.prec.



    1813 BUSBY tr. Lucretius I. 731 That igneous seeds, no longer linked To matter flammable, become extinct. 1867 Morning Star 12 Apr., Their houses are built of much less flammable materials than ours. 1959 Gloss. Packaging Terms (B.S.I.) 10 In order to avoid any possible ambiguity, it is the Institution's policy to encourage the use of the terms ‘flammable’ and ‘non-flammable’ rather than ‘inflammable’ and ‘non-inflammable’. 1970 Which? May 136/2 The plastic linings provided for the kitchen areas..will do little to stop your tent catching fire, because they also are highly flammable.



    Here's what the OED says about "inflammable":



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by The OED


    A. adj.



    1. Capable of being inflamed or set on fire; susceptible of combustion; easily set on fire. Cf. FLAMMABLE a.

    inflammable air (light i. a.), a name formerly given to hydrogen gas; heavy inflammable air, carburetted hydrogen or fire-damp.

    1605 TIMME Quersit. I. xiii. 54 The sulphurous substance and inflamable matter. 1646 SIR T. BROWNE Pseud. Ep. II. v. 87 Brimstone is a Minerall body of fat and inflamable parts. 1673-4 GREW Veget. Trunks iv. §4 A volatile and inflammable Spirit. 1674 PETTY Disc. Dupl. Proportion 93 In what proportions several Liquors contein more or less of inflameable or ardent parts. 1736 Phil. Trans. Abr. VIII. 77 (heading) Experiments on Inflammable Air. 1779 Inflammable gas [see GAS n.1 2]. 1789 AUSTIN in Phil. Trans. LXXX. 54, I therefore attempted to decompose the heavy inflammable air by means of sulphur, which readily unites with the light inflammable air in a condensed state, and with it forms hepatic air. 1791 [see HYDROGEN]. 1871 ROSCOE Chem. 322 Alcohol is very inflammable. 1878 HUXLEY Physiogr. 103 This is the gas which was formerly known as inflammable air, and is now called hydrogen. 1962 MUIR & BARCLAY Burns & their Treatm. Foreword, It is unfortunate that children and the elderly should bear the brunt of our apparent unwillingness to..elaborate methods of rendering clothing less inflammable. 1968 Which? Mar. 92 Recently..the Toilet Preparations Federation recommended to their members that inflammable hair preparations should carry a warning. 1968 E. GALE From Fibres to Fabrics xiv. 151 To render fabrics non-inflammable, they may be treated with mineral salts. 1972 Sci. Amer. Mar. 54/3 If a resulting spark has enough energy inflammables are ignited and explosions are set off.



    As you can see, "inflammable" is a much older word and flammable is a kind of corruption of it. The problem, which is the point of this thread, is that the corruption has become completely interchangeable (in fact, probably, more common) with the original.



    Now, you can go quoting dictionaries at one another all day long, but you're generally (from what I've seen) quoting descriptive dictionaries—the kind you have around the house of on your computer. These dictionaries attempt to describe the current usage of a word, and that's pretty much it. They don't lock down meaning or usage. They just describe how the word works at this particular point in time.



    The OED, by contrast, is an historical dictionary. It tells you how old words and phrases are, provides examples of their usage, and shows you when meanings change over time (e.g. "gay"). When arguing about something like this, the OED is much more helpful.



    At any rate, "flammable" is as wrong as "Jesus'" (as opposed to "Jesus's." But the problem is that the error or corruption of the original has effectively replaced or become interchangeable with the original.



    So. Is it incorrect? Sort of. Does it matter? Not really.



    [/English professor mode]
  • Reply 26 of 26
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 17,035member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by tonton View Post


    I suspect he confused flammable/inflammable with flammatory/inflammatory.



    I suspect this thread is dumb.
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