When I use a word, it
means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.
That’s how Humpty Dumpty from the book Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll decides the meanings of words!
English is a strange language. It first hits you with the catapult of bizarre spellings, then drops you from the highest floor of the eerie building of grammatical rules and finally shoots you with the bullet of peculiar pronunciations!
You can never depend on the sound of a word to deduce its meaning as there are words which mean nothing what they sound like. The meanings of such words seem to have been decided by Humpty Dumpty himself! Such words are informally called as Phantonyms (phantom + antonym).
Here’s a look at 10 phantonyms in English which are sure to trip even seasoned speakers such as President Obama:
The opposite of flammable is non-flammable.
The opposite of interested is uninterested.
Enormity vs Immensity/Enormousness
Traditionally, enormity just means extreme wickedness or atrocity. But in modern times, enormity has been used (sometimes incorrectly) as a synonym for immensity. Although this is not “incorrect” per se, it is bound to cause confusion as the implied meaning is not immediately clear.
Consider a sentence like: “I marveled at the enormity of my friend’s heart”.
Here, does the speaker marvel at the largeness of his friend’s heart, or at the wickedness of his friend’s heart?
In order to avoid this confusion, “purists” suggest using enormity only in its traditional sense – that to imply extreme wickedness. So, although dictionaries may list immensity as a synonym for enormity, they do not tell you the correct usage.