“Sarkozy….has acquired a reputation as a man of action…who speaks his mind on controversial issues, while Chirac is often seen as reigning more than ruling, speaking obtusely and saying little to offend.”
In this case, the word they meant to use is anybody’s guess. Mainly obscurely, I’d think, with some mix of abstrusely, opaquely, and obliquely. A couple of weeks back, the NYT had something like “discrete inquiries.”
Neither of these has joined the growing class of close-enough-for-Jazz misnomers that people would now think you picky or technical for correcting.
“Diffusing a crisis,” for example, is already common and well-established.
Me being stodgy
2 responses to “Me being stodgy”
One of my favorites is the use of “under siege.” Back during the Rodney King riots, someone was interviewing John Singleton – I think it was Bryant Gumble – who said something like, “with all of the rioting on the streets, looting and burning, is it safe to say that Los Angeles is a city under siege?” My immediate mental response was, “Well Bryant, since a siege is when a hostile army surrounds a city and attempts to starve it into submission, no, LA is not under siege. In chaos, out of control, sure, but not under siege.”
I think people use words sometimes because they like the sound of them without really considering what they mean.
I think the word “they meant to use” was, in fact, the one they used: obtusely. Nothing wrong with that; it’s not a made-up word or error. See Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate 10th ed, obtuse, definition 2b: “difficult to comprehend : not clear or precise in thought or expression”.