1. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Grrr...what's with the mixup between 'incredible' and 'incredulous?'

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by jannert, Dec 27, 2016.

    Is it just me, or is this the newest word screw-up? I've just seen it online twice in one day. People who say something is 'incredulous,' when they mean 'incredible.'

    http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/incredible
    (describes something as being difficult to believe and/or wonderful in some way)


    http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/incredulous
    (not believing or not wanting to believe something that seems impossible—describes a person's attitude)

    A person can be incredulous if they find something hard to believe.
    A piece of pie is never incredulous, because it doesn't think or react. A piece of pie CAN be incredible, though. Awesome? Now that's debatable....
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2016
  2. NoGoodNobu

    NoGoodNobu Contributor Contributor

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    I get the incredulous bit

    But is it actually wrong to say "a happy wedding" or a "sad affair?"

    I understand most people commonly misuse words in everyday language (I always wanted to throttle people who used peruse to mean skim—moreso when I saw a dictionary put its definition as itself AND its antonym, which makes conversing with comprehension ridiculous), so it's legitimate question of mine

    I've heard and used those sorts of expressions for events most of my life, so I sincerely appreciate learning
     
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  3. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I'm defo with you on this one, but the others like happy and sad... I can make room for the idea of the thing being described in a personified manner.

    Appy-poly-loggies to my Brit pals, but the one that always sounds off-key to me is when Brits refer to food items as nice. I'm like, okay, the pie was just sitting there, so... I guess that counts as well behaved. ;)
     
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  4. Mumble Bee

    Mumble Bee Keep writing. Contributor

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    You know, this excuse gets thrown around a lot but, maybe its just spellcheck, and the words look similar enough to slip by?
     
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  5. SethLoki

    SethLoki Retired Autodidact Contributor

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    We're (us Brits) conditioned from a young age:

    [​IMG]

    I'm fancying a nice cup of Rosie Lee now too, to dunk/wash it down with.
     
  6. matwoolf

    matwoolf Banned Contributor

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    Nice biscuit and a little bottle of milk with a straw, that was nice.
     
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  7. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    :-D All in good fun. Y'all know I love you, even when you use funny words. :whistle: :bigtongue:
     
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  8. NoGoodNobu

    NoGoodNobu Contributor Contributor

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    Maybe just me, but "nice" had always been an empty qualifier that never means anything other than being vaguely complimentary or acceptable

    I believe it actually meant something like stupid first, then later meant neat (clean), and now just means whatever nonspecific compliment you would like


    "Very true," said Henry, "and this is a very nice day, and we are taking a very nice walk, and you are two very nice young ladies. Oh! It is a very nice word indeed! -- It does for everything. Originally perhaps it was applied only to express neatness, propriety, delicacy, or refinement; -- people were nice in their dress, in their sentiments, or their choice. But now every commendation on every subject is comprised in that one word." (Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen)
     
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  9. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    While agree with all of the above (and your mention of the etymology is correct), all I meant is that of all the rather noncommittal uses that word has in the U.S., applying it to a description of the tastiness of food is not a use we give it. :) In a America food is good, never nice.
     
  10. malaupp

    malaupp Active Member

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    I don't know about that, I'm American and I'm pretty sure I've referred to food as "nice" a couple times. Usually it's when the cook asks me for my opinion and I don't have the quick reflexes to lie properly.
     
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  11. matwoolf

    matwoolf Banned Contributor

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    As much as any word becomes inane - as in good or nice...take your pick...surely 'good' currently leads the pack in offensiveness. The utter smugness of it, I can't get over the evolution, I still hate it, the middle-aged men even...

    'How are you?'

    'I'm guud.'

    'Go fuck yourself.'
     
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  12. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Be that as it may, in my 47 years of Yank-hood, I don't think I've ever heard it. It would certainly have caught my attention and would not have been missed as a segue to slip in a joke about the intoned behavior of the food. :whistle: :-D
     
  13. malaupp

    malaupp Active Member

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    Well the US does have a ton of different little differences in culture, so it could be that. Or it could be the result of my die-hard love of British literature, I can never be sure. xD
     
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  14. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It could be generational shift as well. When I was young "Good for you!" was the way you praised someone's efforts, then one day it just started shifting to "Good on you!", which still sounds so bizarre to me, and which I also later learned is much more the norm in the rest of Anglophonia, with "Good for you" intoning deep sarcasm for those outside the U.S. I can also well remember when "spot on" was entirely a Briticism - unless it was Fasier or Niles Crane speaking - and then, one day, I just started hearing it everywhere on U.S. TV. I never got a memo. Maybe I need to update my email. ;)
     
  15. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I'm always startled when contestants on the Great British Bake Off say that something "tastes nice".
     
  16. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Okay, so I'm not along in this, right? :crazy:
     
  17. malaupp

    malaupp Active Member

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    My favorite reply to that is when someone says "Superman does good. You're doing well."

    Although, if you're not careful it can also come off as douchey.
     
  18. NoGoodNobu

    NoGoodNobu Contributor Contributor

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    I must be odd. I'm only 26, but I've been American (southern Californian) my whole life, and i use and hear nice used for anything in anyway and it seems natural and nonspecific

    "That's a nice blouse" to "the pie smells nice" to "that shrimp scampi has a real nice taste"

    Nice texture, nice sound, nice behaviour, nice personality

    Maybe it's regional—'cause the US is a mighty big country~
     
  19. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Happy wedding and sad affair are just fine. Incredible pie is fine. Incredulous pie is not fine. It suggests a pie with a brain. "Incredulous", to me, cannot be used as an adjective for something that doesn't have a brain. So I couldn't say, "An incredulous wedding," though I could say, "An incredulous wedding party," referring to the people in the wedding party. (Bridesmaids, groomsmen, etc.)

    Similarly, a pie can be puzzling, but not puzzled. On the other hand, a pie could, IMO, be "devious"--for example, if the pie filling is doctored with some largely tasteless alcohol, so that you eat a piece unsuspectingly and then fall over drunk, then the pie could be anthropomorphized as being the entity trying to fool you, even though of course it's really the cook that committed that act.

    I don't know precisely what words require at least a metaphorical brain, and what words don't. I'm reading The Stuff of Thought, by Steven Pinker, which discusses those sorts of issues. For example, he addresses why you can say:

    He loaded the hay into the wagon.
    He loaded the wagon with hay.
    He poured the water into the glass.
    but NOT:
    He poured the glass with water.

    I'm enjoying it.
     
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  20. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    His The Language Instinct is also rather good. :)
     
  21. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    In my version of American English:
    • nice blouse--this varies by context. "nice blouse" would be a compliment or an observation while shopping. "Good blouse" usually assumes a context in which there are less good things. "Are you wearing your good blouse to Mom's?" "No; I don't want the dogs jumping on it."
    • smells nice--not startlingly weird, but nonstandard.
    • nice taste--odd.
    • nice texture--context. If there's a standard for the texture, I'd expect "good". For example, "Your hollandaise has a good texture," versus, "Your hollandaise is too liquid." To me, "nice texture" would be for things where there is no particular standard, like, "I like this teddy bear better--the fur has a nice texture."
    • nice sound--normal.
    • nice behavior--normal.
    • nice personality--fine, and more usual than "good personality."
     
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  22. Mumble Bee

    Mumble Bee Keep writing. Contributor

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    Isn't that just personification?
     
  23. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    British understatement - remember the bit in King rat with Peter Marlowe and 'the King' cooking eggs (for those that haven't read it in essence Peter Marlowe says that the eggs are "quite nice" and the king goes off on them being the "best damn eggs you've ever tasted" to have Marlowe explain that a gentleman understates his compliments so as not to embarrass his host)
     
  24. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Yes, you're right, and I should have corrected the sentence you quoted, after I talked about the devious pie. More accurately, "Incredulous", to me, cannot be used as an adjective for something that doesn't have a brain, either a real brain or a metaphorical brain into which the emotion of incredulity can reasonably be placed.

    It's pretty hard for a pie to be incredulous, but I try:

    Jane made a pie. A good pie. You'd have to know Jane, know the history of kitchen fires, food poisoning, salted cakes and sugared mashed potatoes, to understand the magnitude of this event. Andrew was stunned. Meg was unbelieving. Wilbur was openmouthed. Heck, I think even the pie was incredulous; the perfect chocolate mirror glaze was glimmering with what I read as erratic emotion.
     
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  25. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I can't help thinking of the luggage in Terry Pratchett's Colour of magic
     
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