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Flammable (was: Early Conlang Archives)

From:Raymond A. Brown <raybrown@...>
Date:Friday, March 12, 1999, 6:51
At 12:44 pm -0500 11/3/99, John Cowan wrote:
>Sally Caves scripsit: > >> Confusion about this word has caused many Americans to >> resort to "flammable," which I think is bad news, because if they now write >> that something is "inflammable," what do they mean? > >That isn't the safety issue. "Flammable" has replaced "inflammable" >on trucks and such because it warns you to beware; as Quine says, >semi-literacy is not a capital crime.
Exactly the same has happened this side of the pond :)
>> Will or won't your >> kid's pajamas burst into flames? GGGGG > >In such contexts I usually see "non-flammable". But "inflammable" >is still used for all the metaphorical uses.
In such cases 'non-flammable' is obligatory over here because of the safety issue. 'Inflammable' is a word I distinctly remember misunderstanding when I was a kid; I remember a model plane that was marked 'inflammable' and was rather disconcerted when the wretched thing burnt!. And I guess many other kids (as well as adults) have also misunderstood that word and, I'm sure, sometimes with far more tagic consequences than a lost model plane. The word seems to be falling into disuse here even in the metaphorical use where 'inflammatory' is the usual word. Ray.