"terminally" = utterly; extraordinarily

Mark Mandel thnidu at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jun 30 23:59:09 UTC 2009

On Tue, Jun 30, 2009 at 7:09 PM, <ronbutters at aol.com> wrote:
> Surely a big part of what is going on here is that the noun "terminal" cannot be made into an adverb. In Norfolk, VA, there is a street called "Terminal Drive" (it leads to some kind of Navy terminal. Nobody thinks it means 'Death Street."

> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Victor <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM>
> >
> > I find it interesting that people are running with the narrow meaning of
> > "terminally" as "leading to death", when there is a perfectly good
> > meaning of "terminal" as "at the end" or "at the limit" (e.g., "terminal
> > velocity" obviously has nothing to do with death).

Perfectly good, yes; widely known, I doubt it. "Terminal velocity" is
not in everyone's vocabulary. I know it, but I'm a bit of a geek, a
voracious reader, college-educated, and (perhaps most relevant) a
longterm sf fan.

> > But even if we take up the medical sense of "terminally" (as in
> > "terminally ill"), there is yet another alternative reanalysis. It's not
> > just that someone's terminal condition results in death, but s/he is
> > also "beyond help". In this sense, all the "terminally X" conditions are
> > "beyond help". Someone who is "terminally stupid" cannot be helped
> > and/or cured of being stupid--I suppose, s/he will also take the
> > condition to his grave, but there is NO implication that the condition
> > will CAUSE his death.

I like this argument a lot better (find it more credible) than the
etymological one.

m a m

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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