More Frequently Abused Words: Noisome and Unique

Woe-Is-I-3rdedFor this week’s “Word Wednesday” feature we come back to one of our newer sources for helping us expand and improve on our vocabulary! Its title is Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English, authored by Patricia O’Conner (Riverhead Books, New York, c.1996).

As we pointed out in our earlier post on this book,  it also includes a section on words – chapter five – with the catchy title “Verbal Abuse: Words on the Endangered List”.

Today we take a few more abused words from the first part of this chapter, under the heading “What’s the Meaning of This?”, where O’Conner treats some frequently misused words. This includes the much abused words “noisome” and “unique.” Below are her entries for these words (slightly edited) – complete with a little wit and humor. But all with a serious purpose: to correct our misuse of these common words.

noisome. If you think this means noisy, you’re not even close. Noisome and noisy are as different as your nose and your ear. Noisome means evil-smelling or offensive. It’s related to annoy, so think of it as a clipped form of annoysome. The noisome fumes of the stink bomb forced officials to evacuate the school. [Or think of this line from Psalm 91:3: “Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.”]

Unique. If it’s unique, it’s the one and only. It’s unparalleled, without equal, incomparable, nonpareil, unrivaled, one of a kind. In other words, there’s nothing like it – anywhere. There are no degrees of uniqueness, because the unique is absolute. Nothing can be more, less, sort of, rather, quite, very, slightly, or particularly unique. The word stand alone, like dead, unanimous, and pregnant. The Great Wall of China is unique. [And so is our God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no other god but He, Is.45:6.]

Published in: on January 14, 2015 at 10:22 PM  Leave a Comment  
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