In one of my first entries on this blog, I wrote (briefly) about enormity, specifically Barack Obama's use of it to mean "enormousness" as opposed to "great wickedness." Back then, I said "I think enormity’s meaning is being lost, and there’s not much to be done about it. Too bad, because a word that means 'great wickedness' is a fun word indeed." Kathy Schenck of Words to the Wise talked about the issue in much better detail on Tuesday:
A week from today, Barack Obama will give another historic speech. Will he make the same error he made in his election night address?
"I do not underestimate the enormity of the task that lies ahead," Obama said that night in November. It was not the first time he used enormity to mean enormousness, and it likely will not be the last.
When the Ivy League-educated incoming U.S. president "misuses" a word over and over, sticklers might decide it's time to let go.
She gets in a lot of good citations in the full post.
John McIntyre of You Don't Say said his piece on it yesterday:
I use the word in its strict sense; it's a useful word to have in stock. I teach my students that there is a distinction here that fastidious writers observe. But I can't ignore that the other sense appears to have become prevalent and that no one misunderstands it. No one imagines that Mr. Obama meant that he intended to embark on a task of great wickedness. (Oh, all right, sure there are, but I don't read those blogs or listen to those radio shows.) I can think it regrettable that the two usages coexist and that the one appears to be crowding out the other; but when the speaker's or writer's meaning is always clear in context, it seems pointless to carry on about it. It may not even be justifiable to call it an error, and it's certainly not an enormity.