When I originally conceived of The Dangers Of Semantic Complacency, I’m pretty sure I meant to include an example that slipped my mind when I wrote it.
Well, I suppose I have to mention it now because there’s something in vernacular that really irks me.
I understand saying a painting is priceless. It’s too valuable to put a price on. But, then the contents of my rubbish bin are also priceless. They’re too invaluable to put a price on.
Invaluable. That’s the word I can’t stand to hear applied to any object of value. Of course, even the dictionary is wrong on this one.
Merriam-Webster dictionary thinks that inflammable means explosive. They think that inexperienced means overqualified. They think that indecisive means so good at making up your mind that you don’t even need information. And they think that inexpensive means that only the richest can afford it. Do they really say this about those particular words? Who cares? By defining invaluable as valuable beyond measure, they have already said it about every word with the prefix, “in.” Which means that, if they don’t say it about those other words, then they’re inconsistent. Either way, they are incredible. And, I mean that word literally according to its correct definition (which is not credible beyond credibility).
And, you always hear some talking head on the telly about how something valuable is invaluable. Here’s an idea: Instead of memorising incorrect (no, not correct beyond quantification) text book definitions, why don’t you just break down words and follow the rules of the language we’ve all agreed upon? Wait. You don’t memorise either. You’re the same fools who go on the news and talk about, “an historic occasion.” I think you have an grammar problem.
I suppose if invaluable means valuable beyond estimation, the next time you call me indecent for not wearing my trousers in public, I should take that as a compliment.