Monday, 12 December 2005

I meant "generous"

I mentioned some time ago that comments on anything written in Other Men's Flowers are welcome, especially those that consist entirely of fulsome praise, but I have now discovered that this was the wrong word to use.
According to The Guardian stylebook, the word means "cloying, excessive, disgusting by excess..., so fulsome praise should not be used in a complimentary sense". The OED gives six obsolete meanings and only one which is not: "Now chiefly used in reference to gross or excessive flattery, over-demonstrative affection, or the like", and a modern Collins dictionary has "Excessive or insincere, esp in an offensive or distasteful way".
That is not at all what I had in mind.

I noticed that on the same page in the stylebook is the entry for fuck. This merely covers a rather piffling aspect by advising "Do not describe this as a good, old-fashioned Anglo-Saxon word, because, first, there is no such thing as an Anglo-Saxon word (they spoke Old English) and, more important, its first recorded use dates from 1278".
Elsewhere in the stylebook, under swearwords, there is a typically laid-back piece recommending caution, while noting that The Guardian is more liberal in this matter than any other newspaper, and that asterisks are a cop-out and should not be used.
I am rather proud that I contributed part of one of the entries in this stylebook (not an entry referring to the above).

3 comments:

PerfectlyVocal said...

Interesting - I had thought fulsome was similar to "copious". It was also years before I discovered that "plausible" meant superficially believable, I had always taken it to mean believable without question.

Anonymous said...

Actually, perf, you're correct, according to Webster's 10th Collegiate: The first definition contains no negative connotation: "characterized by abundance: copious." The usage note is also interesting. Is it time to rehabilitate this perfectly acceptable adjective?

Tony said...

Well, no, I think not. There are other words for the positive meaning but none for the negative meaning.
Anyway, Webster is American.