Monday, August 9, 2010

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a misnomer!

Another nice, well-brought-up word that has strayed from the straight and narrow in recent years is "misnomer." It started hanging out on street corners, smoking cigarettes and running with the wrong crowd, and before we knew it, "misnomer" had lost its real meaning.

I can't remember the last time I heard this word used correctly. No, when "misnomer" goes out in public nowadays, it's taking the place of "misconception" or "misapprehension." Though wearing a disguise, "misnomer," in perfect irony, acts out its true identity—a misnomer is a wrong name.

Here's the difference between "misnomer" and "misconception": It is a misconception (a wrong idea) that sitting in a draft will cause one to catch a cold. The "American Civil War" is a misnomer—the bloody conflict was far from "civil."

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