Flammable and inflammable

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed Apr 2 08:37:35 UTC 2014

On Fri, Mar 28, 2014 at 9:06 AM, David A. Daniel <dad at pokerwiz.com> wrote:

> this was confusing to the great unwashed who
> thought that it meant not-flammable

I'm ever amazed to discover that our betters are so concerned for us. When
will, e.g._infect_ be respelled as "fect," so as to avoid unnecessary
confusion among the lower orders?

Well, it is very thoughtful of them. I can remember the shock that I felt,
when I learned _inflammable_, back in the '40's. IIIRC, my immediate
reaction was,

WTF?!!! Latin in-, in a small subset of Latinate English words, is cognate
with English un-, so "inflammable" must mean something like, "can't catch
fire"! Yet, the lighter petroleum distillates can be set explosively aflame
by a mere spark of static electricity! I'm confused!

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

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

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