i do not think the word means what you think it does

I Do Not Think That Word Means What You Think It Means

Four Words for Inigo Montoya

My husband and I enjoy watching the Sunday news shows together.  We’ve been doing this since early in our marriage when we lived overseas and Meet the Press was one of the few American shows we could get.

Yesterday morning we watched as NJ Governor Chris Christie spoke with George Stephanopolous about issues including the military, social security, law enforcement, immigration, and national security policy: “I’ll continue to have conversations with [Trump] to be able to make all of these things more fulsome.”

Roger wondered if fulsome was the word what he meant to use. We looked it up (yes, we’re those people).

  • What Governor Christie might think it means: wholesome.
  • What Dictionary.com says it means*: offensive, disgusting, excessively lavish. Probably associated with foul.

We came up with three other words that are often misused.


  • What people might think it means: bigness, enormousness.
  • What Dictionary.com says it means*: outrageous, atrocious, heinous.


  • What people might think it means: pronounce clearly, enunciate.
  • What Dictionary.com says it means: to announce.

Forte (pronouncing it for-tay)

  • What people might think it means: strong suit, derived from Middle French, pronounced fort.
  • What Dictionary.com* says it means: loud, like the Italian word used in music notation.

UPDATE: See comments for more comprehensive information on forte.

* see Usage or Pronunciation Note for the entry
like me.

What other words would you add to a Does Not Mean list?


This post is part of #MicroblogMondays? Whazzat? A post that’s not too long. Head to Stirrup Queens to join the fun.

13 thoughts on “I Do Not Think That Word Means What You Think It Means”

  1. Condone. Means to accept or allow. Too many people confuse it with “condemn”

    Another famous example is affect (to have influence over someone/something) vs effect (a consequence).

  2. Just looked up forte. And apparently both (fort AND for-tay), are used interchangeably and correctly, to indicate someone’s strength or ability in today’s “common usage”.

    It is not considered a misuse in that context, even if you were to pronounce it “for-tay”.

    From: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/forte
    “Usage Discussion of forte
    In forte we have a word derived from French that in its “strong point” sense has no entirely satisfactory pronunciation. Usage writers have denigrated \ˈfȯr-ˌtā\ and \ˈfȯr-tē\ because they reflect the influence of the Italian-derived forte. Their recommended pronunciation \ˈfȯrt\, however, does not exactly reflect French either: the French would write the word le fort and would pronounce it more similar to English for. So you can take your choice, knowing that someone somewhere will dislike whichever variant you choose. All are standard, however. In British English \ˈfȯ-ˌtā\ and \ˈfȯt\ predominate; \ˈfȯr-ˌtā\ and \fȯr-ˈtā\ are probably the most frequent pronunciations in American English.”



    As noted in all of the entries I linked to above, a user *may* correctly use the “for-tay” pronunciation to indicate a strength; certain people will look down their noses for that use/pronunciation, but the disdain for that use would be misplaced.


  3. Your comment has me thinking about who’s in charge. Does the dictionary govern the people or do the people govern the dictionary? Is there a tipping point in which the dictionary editors reflect changes in how people actually speak?

    We do see this when words are added, but there’s less fanfare when meanings are formally changed.

  4. Forte is a part of the sword. It’s considered the strongest part of the blade. When people say something is not their forte, it means that it isn’t where they hold strength. They’re using it correctly 🙂

  5. No words today, my brain is shutting down, but I find a delicious irony in how Chris Christie used “fulsome” in his sentence. Probably more correct than he thought… 🙂 I love when words have multiple meanings and there’s a story behind them. I am loving all this back and forth on “forte.”

  6. Birthmother: adoption agency and dictionary meaning:
    A vessel to create a child for infertile couples. Not a human being. A man made machine that should be expected to have no feelings and of course no rights.
    What it really means.
    A child’s mother. Period.

  7. Ooh, a word post. I love these! And I love the comments. I didn’t know forte was a part of a sword. As a musician, I only know it in its Italian meaning.

    Of course, my mind has also gone blank, so I can’t provide any additions.

    I’ve been thinking of doing a post on mispronunciations recently – I heard a horrible one on our National Radio the other day. Grammar, incorrect word usages, pronunciation, and don’t start me on spelling – I’m getting so old!

  8. My “fingernails-on-a-chalkboard” is the word, “decimate.” While I recently learned it has evolved to mean, “destroying a large portion of” I still yell at the television, “You did NOT reduce it by one-tenth, so don’t use that word!” 😀

  9. Enormity and fulsome both confuse me, so I generally don’t use them (or get upset when people misuse them).

    I have, however, finally shamed my husband into consciously trying to say “supposedly” instead of “supposably.” I call that a win. Today, I was amused when he said “I can’t say that word (supposedly)! APPARENTLY, (so and so did such and such).”

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