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August 13, 2008

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The idea that "enormity" should only be used with a negative moral judgment seems to be completely made-up. For over 100 years it has been used to denote great size, gravity or monstrousness, without a moral judgment. MWDEU says "Both editions [of Webster 1909 and Webster's Second] have synonymy notes that distinguish between enormity and enormousness by stressing the sense of wickedness for enormity. It seems possible that the critics derived their opinion from the synonymy notes, since they clearly have not heeded the definitions."

(which of course does not mean that the difference does not exist for some people.)

@Goofy: Yes, I'm aware that there's some overlap between the two words, although as an ex-copyeditor I am conditioned to maintain the wall of meaning between them. Besides, I was trying to have some fun with "huge = enormous" and "proofreading malfeasance = enormity."

I'll try softer next time.

"oh, the softer?"

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