Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jul 13 12:00:07 UTC 2011

This goes back to a post of mine on Feb. 11. 2010, which averred that
"shocking," once a pretty intense word, now often means no more than
"startling" or "surprising."

That may be putting it mildly. An ad that just appeared on the Yahoo home
page indicates that, to some people, "shocking" can mean "surprising (in a
pleasant way)."

Now that I refer back to the ad in order to cite it, it's gone. However, it
did claim that dermatologists have found a "shocking" new treatment for
aging skin. That means it's some kind of miracle and you should buy it.

Or perhaps "shocking" really means "miraculous" here.  In my day, similar
ads sometimes contented themselves with "surprising" but wouldn't shy from
"miraculous."  "Miraculous," however, unlike "shocking," has decidedly
positive connotations.

The shift from negative to positive makes me nervous. (And don't say "bad" =
"good" is a common example: we're talking formal discourse here, and that
kind of "bad " doesn't even mean "good" in the relevant sense of "good.")

Even so, I now frequently hear TV journalists use "shocking" in a neutral
sense.  There are many more traditional exx. too, but that makes no

"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

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

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