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I'm a life-long New Englander, father of 4 challenging kids (I know: I'm supposed to say "wonderful", but while that'd be true, technically speaking, it'd also be misleading), and fortunate husband to my favorite wife of more than 20 years. I've got over 20 years experience breaking things as a test engineer, quality engineer, reliability engineer, and most recently (and most enjoyably) a Product Safety / EMC Compliance Engineer. In the photo, I'm on the left.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ruined Words - Ignorant

One of the things that I rail against every now and then is how perfectly good words have gotten ruined over time and, frequently, misuse. Today's word is "ignorant".

It seems to me that these days to call someone 'ignorant' is worse than calling them 'stupid'. 'Stupid' is arguing words, while 'ignorant' is fighting words.

Why are people afraid to be seen as ignorant? Why does it get one's dander up so fully? I was at a vendor once, asking them to explain a portion of their process to me (along with the "why's" of it), and I explained that his was a process that I was pretty much completely ignorant of. He graciously responded with "It's not that you're ignorant, you just don't know."

Thanks for clearing that up for me. It's not that you're ugly, you're just gargoylesque to look at.

In the Etymological Dictionary (Here), the word ignorant means :
"not to know, to be unacquainted; mistake, misunderstand; take no notice of, pay no attention to".

There are a LOT of things that I don't know, and too many things that I'm unacquainted with. More that I don't and aren't than there are that I do and are.

Somewhere along the lines this word was ruined and obtained its sense of ill-mannered or rude. Now, all that anyone hears when this word is used is negative connotation (granted, there's no real *positive* connotation, but to not know something isn't exactly negative either).

I think that what we've got here is nothing more than evolution. Linguistic evolution. Language is a thing very much alive, and words change their meaning by geography, tone, context, and time. Evolution is a good thing, by and large, but every now and then a word, much like a species of animal, gets ruined, alas.


  1. It may not be evolving so much as devolving.

    1. I often think similarly. Two sides of the same force..

  2. With you all the way here. Admitting to being ignorant leaves the door open to me learning about the subject under discussion. Stupid doesn't.

    1. My thinking exactly...I can't really stop being ignorant until I know that I am (sort of).

  3. I think the word ignorant does get misused, therefore it's become offensive. I suppose we need to say it "nicely". Then it will be okay again.

    I remember when I first moved to Toronto, in my British way saying, "Ack, I'm so stupid!" And this perky blond girl with a high-pitched voice saying to me, "Oh, no you're not." Gee, thanks, 'cause I really meant it. People are quite literal and sensitive out here, I find.

    Ignoramus. That's a good one. :)

  4. There are a lot of words that over time have an "understood" meaning, but when checked in the dictionary can be found to have a different understanding ...

    The topic of language evolution is an interesting one.

    How about the words that aren't (or weren't) words, but get added to the dictionary because they are in common language. Another evolution.

    1. That's an excellent point. I hear (probably yearly) about words that are added to the dictionary and sometimes wonder what the hell they're thinking!! I do often rail at Language Evolution...or DeEvolution, as Delores pointed out.