Posted by: episystechpubs | January 21, 2016

Editor’s Corner: My heart’s on fire, Elvira

Sometimes I feel like I am a stodgy, old-fashioned grammarian who should be sitting in an overstuffed chair and wearing a smoking jacket, while I read Roget’s Thesaurus. Then there are times like today when I think that we should all lighten up and let English expand and grow as it always has. The bit of reading that got me thinking about this is from Grammar Girl’s book, The Grammar Devotional (p. 105). I have to say, I’m on the side of the firefighters who decided that “flammable” (meaning “burns easily”) is easier to understand than “inflammable.”

Come On, Baby, Light My Fire: Flammable Versus Inflammable

Flammable and inflammable both mean “easy to burn.” Inflammable is the original word, but in the 1920s, according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage, the National Fire Protection Association started encouraging people to use flammable instead because they worried people could mistakenly think “inflammable” meant “not flammable.” Academics were inflamed (get it?) because they didn’t appreciate the NFPA promoting “corrupt” words, and linguists have groused about flammable ever since.

If safety is important, it is best to use flammable or some other phrase like burns easily. In other cases, you can use whichever word you like.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

Symitar Documentation Services

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