I'm nonplussed, maybe

Many people use words outside their original meaning, but does that make them wrong?

Ineed to say something. And even though I'm going to refrain from typing in all caps, I urge you to pretend I did.

The word "nonplussed" does not mean unfazed, unperturbed or unconcerned. I know just about everyone uses it that way, but I really wish they'd stop.

"Nonplussed" comes from the Latin non plus, meaning "no more," which landed almost intact in English as "nonplus," meaning "a state in which no more can be said or done."

The standard definition of "nonplussed" is "bewildered, confused or perplexed." Got that?

"Nonplussed" should not be used to describe people who are calm during earthquakes, speakers who remain poised when confronted with hecklers, or zoo animals that aren't aware that video footage showing them playing with dog toys is on CNN.com's most viewed list.

Moreover, there is no such thing as the word "plussed" (unless you're one of those people who talks about mathematics in terms of "plussing and minusing," which I personally stopped doing in college) and, even if there were, do you really think it would mean "fazed"? " Would someone really say, "When I spotted Lindsay Lohan at Applebee's, I was so plussed I could barely finish my Mini Chicken Ranchers."

Unlikely. But in the realm of vocabulary blunders committed by those who should know better, nonplussed is nonpareil. Unlike more run-of-the-mill philologic gaffes such as saying, "I could care less" when you mean that you actually could not care less, and, of course, the much-mocked yet still much-practiced "irregardless," the improper use of "nonplussed" has managed to infiltrate not just everyday speech but any number of books and articles that were presumably copy-edited by someone other than the author's stoned roommate.

Here are just a few examples:



Much of the reef abounds with more than 250 species of fish ... who remain remarkably nonplussed in your presence.

-- "1000 Places To See Before

You Die: A Traveler's Life List"

by Patricia Schultz



"Smug" is everything a good Web 'zine should be: Cocky, self-possessed and completely nonplussed by the ever-growing forces of Web big business.

-- Detroit Metro Times,

May 12, 1999



Over the past three years, [New York Giants quarterback Eli] Manning has given New York the impression that a dirty bomb could detonate in his locker and he would stand there nonplussed.

-- New York Post,

Aug. 22, 2007



In January 1989, a nonplussed Reagan proclaimed, "The cold war is over."

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