The Spectacle Blog

Words That Don’t Mean What You Think They Mean

By on 7.25.13 | 3:42PM

Tyler Vendetti over at has compiled a list of ten words that often get misused, which is one of these things we writers like to do during the summer after dyspeptically reading too many beach novels. Some of them are common bugaboos (the perpetually misapplied "ironic" makes the cut), some are debatable (Merriam-Webster says "enormity" can indeed mean "enormousness"), and some are really surprising. The word "travesty" means "a mockery; a parody" and not "a catastrophic event," as it's used by virtually the entire commentariat – myself included at some point, I'm sure. Just last week, a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman called Texas's new abortion law a travesty, and presumably didn't mean it resembled a mildly amusing Saturday Night Live skit.

My weakness is "fantastic," which I too often use to mean "really good" rather than "imaginative," "capricious," or "extravagant." I excuse myself only by pointing out that Merriam-Webster recently made the awful "bromance" an official word. Behold the acme of language evolution.

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