Sometimes I Hate It When I Learn Things

So, nonplussed is a word I love.  As in, “Kelly was totally nonplussed by the whole situation.”  And in this sentence I would have intended it to mean “unfazed”.

I was using nonplussed in a piece I was writing, but wanted to look it up…I’m not sure why, because it’s a word that’s meaning I was confident I knew, but for whatever reason I did look it up.  And now, because of my stupid need to look stuff up I learned that the TRUE meaning on nonplussed is this:

“1. surprised,stunned, dumbfounded, confounded, taken aback, disconcerted, thrown, thrown off balance; puzzled, perplexed, mystified, baffled, bemused, bewildered; informal fazed, flummoxed, stumped, bamboozled, discombobulated.”

Which is the exact OPPOSITE of the other meaning (the one I’ve been using all these years):

“2.  unperturbed, unruffled, unfazed, composed.”

So, truly confused now, I read this:

In standard use, nonplussed means ‘surprised and confused’:  In American English, a new use has developed in recent years, meaning ‘unperturbed’—more or less the opposite of its traditional meaning: : hoping to disguise his confusion, he tried to appear nonplussed. This new use probably arose on the assumption that non- was the normal negative prefix and must therefore have a negative meaning. Although the use is common, it is not yet considered standard.

So basically this means that I have not only been using this word technically wrong for my entire adult life thus far, but also that a word I love, I cannot continue to use, unless I just want to be considered an ignorant American that doesn’t understand how prefixes work and doesn’t care about the rest of the world and the realities of what words really mean.

Can I just say?  SONOFABITCH!

Oh, and “Kelly finds herself completely nonplussed by this new god damn discovery.”


  1. meagansk’s avatar

    That’s weird, I thought it meant the second definition as well. Ugh, now I’m not going to be able to say nonplussed without second guessing myself.

  2. 1979semifinalist’s avatar

    I know. My feelings exactly. I’m just going to have to remove nonplussed from my repertoire.

  3. Ben Cohen’s avatar

    Thanks for the lesson and the laugh. I think there is a word I use that is like that…hrmmmm.

  4. Bill Z’s avatar

    I had a similar experience recently with hoi polloi :)


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