This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Sunday Rest: hysterical. Word Not To Use Today Except Wrongly.

Words, like guns, too often come loaded.

If someone is hysterical then they are liable to insane outbursts of emotion. This is, by definition,* impossible in a properly manly man.

Recently, though, hysterical has started to mean something quite different. 

It was hysterical, people say, meaning it made them helpless with laughter.

The dog came out of the clothes basket wearing Dad's pants on its head. It was hysterical.

Even more recently, it's started being used as a way of disguising the dullness of a story.

I was in the supermarket and my shoelace came undone. It was hysterical!

In these cases hysterical can mean more or less anything from mildly inconvenient to rather embarrassing.

The good news is that this new use of hysterical is at last taking the bullets out of it.

We hung round the bins and shared a drink. It was hysterical.

Because at last it means that men can be hysterical

Which, obviously, they often are.

Bless them.

*Word Not To Use Today Except Wrongly: hysterical. This word arrived in English in the 1600s from the Latin hystericus meaning of the womb, from the Greek husterikos, womb. The idea was that hysteria was caused by disorders of the womb.

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