This list is not presented in any special order and is certainly not numbered according to any level of importance.
It is only that I have come to realize that the best place to start is directly “where you are”. And today, I have been thinking about this word… So this word provides a very good example of an inferior word…
Most dictionaries define the word, “Incredible” as something like:
1. Impossible to believe.
2. Difficult to believe; extraordinary.
3. Amazingly good, or beautiful.
And there-in lies the first problem. How is it that any-one can comprehend what a person is saying if that person uses this word?
It is because most “Native” speakers of a language do not learn words from a dictionary, but from the people they grow up around — and from TV, Movies, & Music… And the same goes for those people in the TV shows, movies, and those who are writing and singing the songs!
That is why most people usually use this word with the 3rd definition — meaning: “Amazingly Good”
- So then, why isn’t that the first definition?
- And what about the root-word?
- …and the prefix?
- Don’t those “have a say in the matter”?
Let’s take a look
Credible: Able to be believed; convincing.
Okay, that sounds… “credible”… What about the pre-fix?
The Prefix, “In-“
- (from Mid- and Old English) In, Into
- (from Proto-Germanic) In, Into
- (from Proto-Indo-European) In, Into
- (from Latin) In, Into
But Wait, There’s More!
- (from Latin [again]) Not
Excuse me? Did I just read that correctly?
Okay… Now we are about to get a little bit too far “down the rabbit hole”. I will certainly be dealing with the problems of prefixes (and more specifically, the fact that most people don’t even think about their function and relation to the words that they are attached to…)
…But for now let’s focus on “Incredible”.
Even though (once again) almost all of the “definitions” of the prefix, “In-“ state that it means: “In” or “Into” — the way that it seems to be used the most in our “modern” times is to mean: “Not”… — Which, to me, is IN-conceivable, IN-explicable, and virtually IN-comprehensible… That is un-less you make some adjustments and “set the bar” (the level of what is expected of people) REALLY REALLY low.
So if we were to go with the most common “usage” (not definition) of the prefix, “In-“ — and attach it to the actually meaning of the root word “Credible” — then that would mean that the word “Incredible” means:
“something which is not able to be believed”
Well, that’s exactly what the first definition says… So what’s the problem? The problem is exactly that…
THIS IS NOT HOW THE WORD IS USED OR WHAT IS MEANT BY THOSE WHO USE IT!!!
The word is almost always used to mean:
“Amazing”, “Wonderful”, etc.
So the second definition is a bit closer to the common usage, because it is highly probably that some-one is using this word to say that something is so amazing that it is almost un-believe-able (hyphenated for emphasis). However, the second definition also uses the word “extraordinary”…
(an-other word which will definitely be added to the list.)
So What Is The Solution?
Well, we are almost there. But before we can get there, we first need to be able to comprehend how this “false” usage happens.
Imagine a business person in the 1970s, who is presented with a proposal — To produce a device that will be able to fit into a person’s pocket, and will not only store the phone-numbers of every-one that the person knows, but can also be used to communicate with those people, virtually anywhere that the person who is using the device may be (as long as they are fairly close to “civilization”.)
In addition to this — the device will be able to store incredible amounts of data; can be used as an alarm clock, a calculator, a calendar — and has the potential to be a tool for completely hypnotizing the users of these devices AND can be used to monitor the where-abouts of the owners of such devices — where-ever they may be on the planet, by those in governmental organizations…
BUT THERE’S MORE!!!…
By the early 21st century — virtually every person — even down to the age of those less than 10-years-old — will have one of these devices… Because people will automatically assume that these devices are virtually essential to modern-day survival…
Now… Let us expand this imaginary scenario to include that business person’s child, who happens to be a big fan of the TV show Star Trek. He has already constructed a toy version of such a device and thinks that the idea he just heard his father explain sounds “Amazing”, “Wonderful”, and in every way a really really good idea.
But his dad is a very important person in his company and he feels that he can not take risks by investing in such “crazy” ideas (because he has no imagination.) So when his wife asks him what he told the person who came to him with the idea, he says…
“I told him it was completely Incredible.”
Now… What he meant was that: “the idea did not sound believable” and was not anything that he thought his company would be interested in investing money in…
But what his son (who didn’t know the definition of the word, “Incredible”) interpreted from this word that he didn’t know the definition was…
“That’s sounds like an “Amazing” idea!!!”
That’s because the son (like everyone else who does the same thing) makes the mistake of thinking that HIS view of the context is the same as the MEANING of the word.
The son thinks that this device sounds “AMAZING!” And hears his dad describe it as “Incredible!” (meaning “Not Credible”). But the son does not conceive that his dad could think about the device in a way that is different than his own interpretation — and so the son assigns the meaning of “Amazing” to the word “Incredible”.
(As a side note: If his dad was obviously angry and slammed his fist on the table when he said “Incredible” — then the interpretation would be different. But it was not a bid deal to his dad [because he did not think that it WAS credible] and so he said it “matter-of-factly”)
So then the son uses this new word in the way that he interpreted because he was not told that he was wrong, and never bothered to look it up in the dictionary (which would not have really helped anyway) — thus solidifying his own “definition” in his minds, and in the mind of others who hear him use it in this new way. And the cycle is repeated until “Everyone” thinks that the word “Incredible” means “Really Amazing”.
And this is a perfect example of how virtually ALL of the words that are mis-used by people actually come to be mis-used in the first place… The meaning is assumed according to the context of the situation and then “mapped” to that person’s comprehension of the situation, which is ALWAYS “colored” according to that person’s own version of reality.
And, because it is considered embarrassing to admit that one does not comprehend a certain word — and it is considered rude to tell some-one that he or she may be wrong, or only just a bit “off”… The cycle is perpetuated.
And worse yet — instead of staying true to reality — the editors of dictionaries simply change (or worse yet) add new definitions to compensate for the mistakes of the people using the words… And thus — the cycle is not only further-perpetuated, but actually becomes a bit more like this.
This is just one example. There are many many more. And each of them deals with many of the same set of commonalities:
- Prefixes, Suffixes, & Root-Words with multiple meanings.
- Prefixes & Suffixes being mistaken as being part of the Root-Word.
- People not using dictionaries.
- The dictionaries being re-written by people like those above.
- Root-Words changing because of people’s mis-use of the word.
- and the endless cycle of the same.
And worst of all…
- Teachers who don’t take their students seriously.
- Thinking that they are not smart-enough to know or comprehend the truth.
- Thinking that the “truth” is not as important as doing what their text-book (or the person signing their pay-check) says.
- Thinking that the text-book IS “the truth”.
- And generally not giving a shit about anything except getting through their day.
It is my intent to: correct, not only the mistakes with many of these words, but also in the teaching and learning of these words… And ultimately, the way in which the language it-self is actually used…
Some may say that that is a bold statement… I know.
But who in history can you think of that has never done anything that was bold?
… (that’s a trick question)
“Nobody remembers those who never did anything bold.”