A Conversation for Oddities of English

The Meaning of Inflammable

Post 21

Researcher 188007

The whole problem is due to a confusion of the two Latinate meanings of the prefix 'in-'. One meaning is negative, the other means 'in', but can also act as an intensifier - this is the case in 'inflammable', which means 'capable of being inflamed', and only erroneously 'not flammable'. I'm pretty sure that the only legitimate word for this meaning is 'non-flammable', at least in British English.

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Post 22

Researcher 191686

Please note they were referring to 'in' as a prefix not 'un' as you stated in the word 'undo'.

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Post 23

Researcher 192311

Old posting I know but having never replied to anything on this forum before I couldn't resist replying to this one!

In the UK there were only two recognised words to describe the incendiary nature or not of substances:-


2. UNINFLAMMABLE means not likely to burn

I previously suggested "were" because the English language is forever changing through a multitude of influences (slang derivations, laziness, computers, TV, American culture being absorbed etc)

1a. FLAMMABLE is an Americanism which because of modern communications is being recognised as in 1. (possibly to avoid confusion amongst the semi-literate, a worryingly increasing population)

2a. Non-flammable (likewise an Americanism but actually two linked words)

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Post 24

Researcher 191934

Inflammable was, I believe, abandoned for "public" use (on vehicles or materials) in favour of "flammable", the latter being less likely to mislead the semi-literate, or foreigners. Better to be safe than purist!

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Post 25

Researcher 191934

Seven successive ands:
When Messrs Bolland & Anderson's new shop sign arrived, they complained to the sign-painter: 'There should be bigger spaces between Bolland and and and and and Anderson!' Ugh.

The Meaning of Inflammable

Post 26

Researcher 191934

I suppose "flame-proof" means something else?

The Meaning of Inflammable

Post 27


Oh, who cares about inflammable or imflammable or whatever-able, any more?! Forget I ever brought it up!

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Post 28


I can only assume that the majority of the comments on this page were not delivered by teachers which reinforces my view that English teachers tend to be the least pedantic of people. Especially when it comes to the English language.

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Post 29


Sorry to butt in on your conversation, but if
Researcher "GENKI"
would go back to there own page and then click on the "EDIT PAGE" button and then write a little something about your self then a ACE can come and welcome you there properly
Sorry for interrupting your conversation smiley - ok

Manda smiley - magic

Eye , eye

Post 30

Researcher 203665

Apart from skiing , doesn't "taxiing" also have double I ? I know Latin loan words like "radii" also fall into this category but "the plane now taxiing on the runway" is 100% English as far as I'm concerned .

Eye , eye

Post 31


'Taxiing' is mentioned in the Oxford English Dictionary, so it's good enough for me. Interestingly, they have 'book-keeping' rather than 'bookkeeping', which means that it doesn't have three consecutive pairs of letters...

The Meaning of Inflammable

Post 32


There are at least six words out of "there", if you count "thee", the informal/dialect "you" that hangs on in Northern England. Would "ert", the opposite of "inert", count as a word in its own right?

and the peculiarity of "vacuum", the only word - literally - with a "double u"!

The Meaning of Inflammable

Post 33


"Ask your friends if they know a five-letter word that has five other words inside it. The answer is 'there' (the, he, her, here, ere)."

Just spotted "tree". Definitely seven now. And re. the above conundrum... "re" makes eight.... And "ether" (numbing chemical).

The Meaning of Inflammable

Post 34

~ jwf ~ scribblo ergo sum

smiley - ok

What a treat to see this old conv revived.
And I am still as pedantic as I was then too!
Always thrilled for a chance to show off my smarts.

For example, you said:
"...and the peculiarity of "vacuum", the only word - literally
- with a "double u..."

And I just gotta say 'continuum'
smiley - nahnah
But you probably knew that and were just trying to get a rise outa me.

smiley - biggrin

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Post 35


Richard Feyneman famously pointed out that subbookkeeper has four pairs of double letters.

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