Little Paradoxes In The English Language


When I was told that “squarely defeated” and “roundly defeated” essentially mean the same thing, I began to ponder some more curious English words or phrases.

  • Peruse – It means to read thoroughly and attentively. However, it can also mean to skim. “Scan” also has contradictory definitions similar to “peruse”.
  • Clip – To attach; to cut off.
  • Flammable and Inflammable – Some people assume that they are opposite in meaning because of “in” like action/inaction and tangible/intangible. However, that’s not the case. Inflammable comes from the Latin verb inflammare, the root word flammare means “to catch fire” and combined with the Latin prefix in which means “to cause to”.
  • Oversight – It may mean watchful and responsible care or an omission or error due to carelessness. This may explain why many oversight committees are prone to oversight.

  • Fat chance and Small chance – Both have somewhat similar definitions though fat chance is normally used for pointing out sarcastically (or perhaps, cynically) that there is almost no chance.
  • Priceless – When something is said to be priceless, it means that thing is too precious that its price cannot be determined. Unlike useless and valueless, the meaning of priceless doesn’t become the opposite of “price”.
  • I couldn’t care less and I could care less – Both have the same connotation but technically, “I couldn’t care less” is the correct expression. However, more and more people are now using “I could care less”.
  • Moot – This may either mean subject to debate or having little or no practical relevance.
  • Fix – Here’s a little wordplay that I came up with. You can fix a car to win a race and you can “fix” a horse to lose a race.
  • Apparent – Not certain or clear; obvious

About Edmark M. Law

My name Edmark M. Law. I work as a freelance writer, mainly writing about science and mathematics. I am an ardent hobbyist. I like to read, solve puzzles, play chess, make origami and play basketball. In addition, I dabble in magic, particularly card magic and other sleight-of-hand type magic. I live in Hong Kong. I blog at You can find me on Twitter @EdmarkMLaw and Facebook. My email is
This entry was posted in Language, Miscellanea and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Little Paradoxes In The English Language

  1. “I could care less” has always annoyed me. I see it all too often in books, and while it may be the more popular of the two expressions, it’s wrong. It amazes me that publishing house editors don’t correct it. (Because…you know…they’re so much better than Indie authors.) 😒

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that “I couldn’t care less” is still more popular (at least in writings) though “I could care less” is steadily gaining more traction.

      Those publishing houses though just couldn’t care less…

      This is like all right/alright. All right is the more acceptable of the two but more and more people are now using alright. They argue that this is similar to already and altogether (which are acceptable). For now, alright is only acceptable in informal writings but in formal writings, all right is the only acceptable form.

      However, English is a fast evolving language, so I won’t be surprised if “alright” would be TRULY accepted in formal writing in the future.


  2. Funny, little language buggers aren’t they?! Oh well, might as well enjoy them. 😄
    Very well-written and informative article. Thank you. 🙂
    Correction: Fat chance and Small chance – Both have

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s actually a “moo point.” You know, “like a cow’s opinion. It just doesn’t matter. It’s moo.”

    If that doesn’t make sense, ask Joey from Friends 😉


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s