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The “Notorious” Use of “Famous”

There I was again, playing Trivia Crack on my phone, and I got a question asking what country has been “notoriously neutral” in times of war?

One of the choices was Switzerland, so I chose it and was correct. But I thought notorious was the wrong word because notorious has a negative connotation to it. I thought a better choice of word was famously.

Just to make sure, I looked up both words. Sure enough, notorious had a negative connotation within its definition: “generally known and talked about, especially widely and unfavorably.”

But then came the surprise. Listed as a synonym was famous.

Famous means “widely known.” There was a usage note that explained that famous implies little more than being widely known, but notorious “adds to famous an implication of questionableness or evil.”

Unless the person who wrote the Trivia Crack question really thought it evil of Switzerland to remain neutral during wartime — and I doubt it, for this is Trivia Crack, after all — the better word is famous.

Until next time! Use the right words!


April 1, 2015 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , ,

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