There’s a great running joke in 1987’s cult romantic comedy ‘The Princess Bride’. The good guy relentlessly pursues the bad guys, and every time they fail to shake him off the ringleader says it’s “inconceivable”. Eventually one of his sidekicks says, “You keep saying that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
He’s not the only one. Time and again we see one word when the writer means another. Good examples include: robust (which means healthy), passionate (which means barely controllable emotion) and peruse (which means to read thoroughly – the exact opposite of what people think it means). Now you might be nonplussed (which means thoroughly confused, not unbothered) about why we should care if the correct words are always used. But we think they should be.
By using individual words correctly, we can stop them taking a short-cut to become meaningless – or worse, ignored. Maybe instead of ‘delivering’ people might start telling us what their business completes, provides, produces, achieves or even gives.
Or is that inconceivable?