Doggy dog world and other enormities

How often have you heard or read something like this:

“The proof is in the pudding.”

Well, no, it isn’t actually. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, dammit.

And don’t get me started on ‘enormity’. Too late. It is not, as so many seem to think a synonym for mere bigness. On the other hand this does occasion me the odd moment of unintended amusement…

‘On starting my new job, I was staggered by the enormity of the task ahead.’ Why? Had you become commandant of a death camp or leader of the Tory party?

[On the birth of a child]‘I was overcome by the enormity of the event.’ You’ve become the parent of Satan?

I realise that this is a losing battle, however. Language changes, there’s nothing that can be done to restrain, control or direct that change, and the process is quite mysterious. You can notice that change has happened, but never see it happening. Not that long ago people used to say ‘conTROversy’. Now they say (even BBC announcers) ‘controVERsy’ (on the analogy of ‘controversial’, I suppose). Using a rising intonation at the end of flat statements - making them sound like questions - is increasingly common. I even find myself doing it sometimes, yet when I first encountered it (in real life as opposed to on TV) in the late 1980s, I found it utterly confusing:

‘I’m from Toronto’
‘Errm, I don’t know, are you? Have you forgotten?’

As for enormity, I suppose that eventually even dictionaries will recognise the ‘very big’ meaning as primary.

Hint: ‘enormity’ means ‘monstrous wickedness’.

From the Department of Irate Pedantry

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