tevere: Jihae, solemn with hint of smile (Default)
Strange. Did you know there's a word in the English language that simultaneously holds two completely opposite meanings?

So, something had been irking me in an ill-defined way since coming back from Perth, and it was this phrase from the Lonely Planet, Western Australia: "You can have lunch on the grass while swans plod around you, nonplussed."

And yeah, it made sense in a words-fitting-together kind of way. But the mental image just didn't sit quite right: if the swans were nonplussed, then why would they plod? Plodding is a placid sort of action, with a long-suffering side of couldn't-care-less. If you've ever been near a nonplussed Australian black swan, you know you've got about five seconds before you should start running.

Being somewhat neurotic, I looked it up when I got home and found this:



• adjective 1 surprised and confused. 2 N. Amer. informal unperturbed.

— USAGE In standard English nonplussed means ‘surprised and confused’. A new meaning, ‘not disconcerted; unperturbed’, has developed recently in North American English, probably on the assumption that the prefix non- must have a negative meaning; this is not yet accepted as standard usage.

Potentially confusing, no? In the interests of testing how widespread the second definition is: when you hear the word 'nonplussed', do you think (a) surprised or (b) unsurprised?


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