Saturday, 6 June 2020

A Fulsome Consultation

Government Street
On Monday the the Victoria Council is going to close Government Street to vehicular traffic from View to Fort. Good news, for commerce will be able to spill out into the street, and patrons of bars and coffee shops will be able to sit outside in safety away from the noxious virus that may be circulating within. The bad news is that this was a sudden decision, made without “fulsome consultation with stakeholders or the wider public”.

I was rankled, of course, not by the lack of due process, but by the misuse of that ugly word, “fulsome”. It is an ugly word, isn’t it? Say it. Go on, say it, “fulsome”. It sounds rather sickening, doesn’t it, redolent of swamp miasma, with bubbles rising from the murky depths to an oily surface. Even as I say the word, I feel queasy in the stomach.

Currently, the word means “excessively complimentary or flattering, effusive, overdone”, a meaning to my mind, not unlike the sickening feeling I experience when I hear it, as if I’m about to throw up. Indeed, one dictionary quotes as an example of its usage, “With the stink of decaying corpses so near her cave ... suddenly she felt overpowered by the fulsome reek" (Jean Auel)”.

Unfortunately, the word has been misused to mean “full”, to such an extent that its misusage has become common usage, and this second meaning has found its way into the dictionary. Unfortunately, because in a sentence such as “Fulsome praise was heaped upon the author,” we don’t know whether the praise was genuine or not. Was it sickening and excessive flattery, or was it merely full? For that reason, it's probably better not to use the word at all.

But what kind of person would speak of a fulsome discussion rather than a full discussion. Someone who wants to elevate his importance by using a bigger word? Perhaps it was the councillor who likes to keep the climate action lens front and centre.

No comments:

Post a comment