No trifling with trifle.

English trifle dessert
English trifle.

Let’s consider the word trifle.

As a noun it can be either “an English dessert made of layers of custard, fruit, and sponge cake” [1] or “a thing of little value or importance.” [2]

As a verb, trifle means, “treat (someone or something) without seriousness or respect.” [2]

Now I don’t know about you, but dessert is pretty darn important to me, so I will leave you with this admonishment:

Trifle is not to be trifled with.

Green olives may be trifled with.
You may, however, feel free to trifle with cream cheese and green olive sandwiches. But maybe that’s just me. [3]


[1] Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trifle.

[2] Google: https://www.google.com/search.

[3] See The Olive Sandwich Incident to learn why I seriously disrespect this form of so-called “food.”

When the opposite of a word…isn’t.

illustrations are good.Why do the words flammable and inflammable mean the same thing?

The dictionary at reference.com indicates that both words mean:

“easily set on fire; combustible.”

The prefix in- means not. The word roots section on membean.com says so. The page even has a cute little interactive tree with examples.

Call me crazy, but is seems to me that having two words that ought to have opposite meanings but don’t is just asking for trouble.

“Dude! That truck has a sign that says it’s inflammable!
Hold my beer and watch this!”

hold my beer and watch this!
Not a good thing, unless you’re trying for a Darwin Award.

Why do some words sound like what they mean and others don’t?

The cow says moo.An onomatopoeia is a word “which imitates the natural sounds of a thing. It creates a sound effect that mimics the thing described….” [1]

Bees buzz, cows moo, horses whinny, etc.

However, there are some words that sound so much not like what they mean that you can get yourself in trouble using them.

For instance, the word pulchritudinous sounds more like the symptom of an infectious disease than a compliment. If you say:

pulchritudinous.
 
“My, what a pulchritudinous woman you are!”

to your date, chances are you’re going to get slapped – even though you shouldn’t. Pulchritudinous actually means:

“having great physical beauty.” [2]

Huh? Who, how, and why, we ask ourselves, would someone come up with such an ugly-sounding word to describe beauty?

Inquiring minds want to know. [3]


[1] Source: literarydevices.net.

[2] I suggest you tell anyone you’re going to describe as “pulchritudinous” what the word means before you use it.
Source: vocabulary.com.

[3] And did he ever have a date?