"deceptively" ?

Jesse Sheidlower jester at PANIX.COM
Mon Apr 7 18:47:21 UTC 2003

I was recently asked about the following situation: There is a task
that looks very difficult to do, but is in fact very simple. Should
this be described as "deceptively simple" or "deceptively difficult"?

This puzzled me, so I've been looking through loads of
evidence, collected and corpus-based (I haven't found
anything useful in usage guides), and it seems that
"deceptively simple/easy" and "deceptively difficult" both
mean 'difficult, though appearing to be simple'. There doesn't
seem to be a way, at least according to the evidence, of
saying "easy, though appearing to be difficult."

Thoughts? Larry, this seems up your alley.

Jesse Sheidlower

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