Remember the gas pipeline explosion in California? One commentator said of the victims, "These folks have been disenfranchised from their homes." My computer's dictionary is okay with this usage, I gather, from its third definition: "deprive someone of a right or privilege." I object. Let's keep "disenfranchise" for instances of denying the right to vote or the effect of a vote.
Even my handy computer dictionary can't help the caller to a local radio show who confessed that he "used to follow football, I bled crimson and white, but I got disenfranchised with all that."
I could find no backing for this strange use: The Southern Poverty Law Center had to apologize to a scholar it accused of denying Turkey's massacre of Armenians during and after World War I. In so doing, they called the incident "a conflict earmarked by widespread civilian suffering on all sides." Earmarked?
There has been a great deal of jawing among the political class about earmarking, but it has concerned the practice of designating funds for a particular purpose. An earmark is exactly what it sounds like—a mark on the ear of a farm animal. The SPLC's use of the word just makes no sense.
Neither does this, from the Washington Post: "…the U.S. government, which helped to create ICANN in 1998, has been reprimanding the nonprofit group to give foreign nations more say over the Web's operations."
I don't think you can reprimand someone to do anything. What did the Post writer mean? That the U.S. government repeatedly has reprimanded the group in hopes that it will change its policy? Or did s/he mean the government is pressuring the group to make a change? I can't say.
Another strange word choice turned out not only to be correct, but seemed, on second look, a wonderful return of an old usage. When I first read this sentence—"The status quo may be fraught and unnatural, but it is endlessly preferable to those options"—I was stopped by "fraught" not followed by "with." The word's second definition is "causing or affected by great anxiety or stress." It can, in fact, stand alone.
Using out-of-the-ordinary words is fraught with the danger of a communication breakdown, but our conversations need not be fraught. Just stay away from those painful earmarks.