The one truly safe off-topic topic - Language

Fri Mar 21 18:54:04 PST 2003

Philip Hart wrote:
> It seemed to me Warlord's original input was also 
> inflammatory (tempted to write "flammatory" for some reason) 

I was tempted to respond that you should feel free to since they mean the
same thing.  Then I consulted the American Heritage and found no entry for
flammatory.  However there is a wonderful usage note w.r.t. flammable.

"Historically, *flammable* and *inflammable* mean the same thing.  However,
the presence of the prefix in- has misled many people into assuming that
*inflammable* means 'not flammable' or 'noncombustible.'  In the
circumstances, it is therfore advisable to use only *flammable* in contexts
imparting warnings or on product labels, where a misinterpretation might
have more serious consequences for the reader than an etymological mistake
would deserve."

Then again, it seems to me that the editors of the American Heritage have an
awfully low estimation of the consequences that should be expected from an
etymological mistake!