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June 11, 2008

§ 111. enormity / enormousness

J.K. Rowling - who is a babe - delivered a commencement address to the ungrateful of Harvard. NPR reports.

A reluctant public speaker, Rowling began her address alluding to the enormousness of her task. "The first thing I'd like to say is thank you," she said. "Not only has Harvard given me an extraordinary honor. But the weeks of fear and nausea I've experienced at the thought of giving this commencement address have made me lose weight!"

Good news. Which brings me to my point: Enormousness? I gather NPR editors are a part of the stickler fifty-nine percent. But surely to deliver a speech requires no act of immensity and, given the audience, a sense of enormity is entirely appropriate. And screw Bartleby's committees besides, the big brains are still against them: Down with prescriptivism!

Posted by Ghost of a flea at June 11, 2008 12:04 AM


Rowling certainly embiggened that commencement address....

"Enormousness" sounds barbaric (and "immensity" wouldn't have bothered me at all), but I agree with the 59 percent that "enormity" has the wrong connotations. How can a self-proclaimed reactionary favor a shift away from the careful distinctions of the Victorian era?

Posted by: Mr. Atoz [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 11, 2008 10:32 AM

Largely because I am not convinced these are Victorian distinctions but rather innovations on the part of Bartleby pedants. I am, as you have noted, quite au fait with Victorian pedantry, however, and am happy to stand corrected should this prove to be the work of proper old fashioned pedants.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 11, 2008 10:57 AM