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Picture of BobHale
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We all know that "enormity" is, nowadays, often used to mean great size rather than its traditional meaning of great wickedness. Good or bad, that's just a fact of modern usage but I just read this sentence in a review of the opening episode of the new Doctor Who Season -

"Given the enormity of the occasion of Whittaker’s casting, “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” has to walk a fine line while introducing her."

It appears to being used to mean "importance."

Is this a new usage or simply a mistake by the writer?


"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Samuel Johnson.
 
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Interesting question. I've always only known enormity to mean "greatness in size" as the dictionary says. One of the definitions is "greatness of influence," which might be what they were getting at.
 
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Which dictionary?

The quality or state of being immoderate, monstrous, or outrageous
especially : great wickedness -Webster

The great or extreme scale, seriousness, or extent of something perceived as bad or morally wrong. - Oxford

The quality of passing all moral bounds; excessive wickedness or outrageousness. -American Heritage

To be strictly accurate though, all of those offer great size among the other definitions, usually marking it as a modern usage or that some consider it improper.

The "important" usage is one that I hadn't previously run across. Given the torrent of bile and hatred that the casting of *gasp* a woman elicited in some quarters I suppose the writer could possibly have meant "wickedness".


"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Samuel Johnson.
 
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And, for the record, the story for the first episode was, maybe, a little lacklustre but she was absolutely terrific as The Doctor.


"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Samuel Johnson.
 
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Whittaker will be great. I’m more worried about Chibnall.
 
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He's already said one thing that I approve of though... he's dumping the convoluted season(and multi-season) plot arcs that you need a spreadsheet to keep track of. He says the episodes will be stand alone stories with development coming from the characters rather than Moffat's impossible-to-follow-without-a-scorecard plotlines.


"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Samuel Johnson.
 
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Hmmmmm... For Who the Belle toils? Big Grin
There's some misuse you can get your teeth into!
 
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quote:
Originally posted by BobHale:
We all know that "enormity" is, nowadays, often used to mean great size rather than its traditional meaning of great wickedness. Good or bad, that's just a fact of modern usage but I just read this sentence in a review of the opening episode of the new Doctor Who Season -

"Given the enormity of the occasion of Whittaker’s casting, “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” has to walk a fine line while introducing her."

It appears to being used to mean "importance."

Is this a new usage or simply a mistake by the writer?


I never heard the word used as "great wickedness" as far as I can remember, but I have heard it used as "importance". An example might be, "He was surprised by the enormity of the question she was asking".
 
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ANd there's the problem.

I would take that to mean she asked a wicked question - perhaps, "Is it OK if I eat all these babies?"


"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Samuel Johnson.
 
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quote:
Which dictionary?
Dictionary.com - maybe not the best?
 
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It has been used to refer to “size that is beyond normal bounds, a size that is unexpectedly great” or something of a size that is daunting or overwhelming for about 150 years.

http://www.arrantpedantry.com/...-of-a-usage-problem/

I don’t see anything out of the ordinary with Bob’s quote.
 
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It just seemed to me to be used to mean "important" - a usage that I personally don't recall seeing before.


"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Samuel Johnson.
 
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I found other examples on COCA where it seems to mean "importance" for what it's worth.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by sattva:
I never heard the word used as "great wickedness" as far as I can remember, but I have heard it used as "importance". An example might be, "He was surprised by the enormity of the question she was asking".

DITTO.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by BobHale:
ANd there's the problem.

I would take that to mean she asked a wicked question - perhaps, "Is it OK if I eat all these babies?"


I will try to give two examples of enormity that would not mean "great wickedness". One, suppose you have been dating someone for a year and one day she says to you, "Do you prefer a church wedding or something else?" You might realize the enormity of what she was asking you and that she was thinking in terms of marriage.

Another example, Meghan asks Prince Harry out of the blue, "What shall we name our child?" His face shows the enormity of what she might be trying to tell him. That she's pregnant. There's no wickedness involved, but it sure is important!
 
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I wouldn't deny that nowadays it is more often used to mean "size" or "extent"* (though "importance" is a new one on me) but historically it certainly meant "wickedness". Honestly, this is so commonly discussed that I'm surprised so many people here seem not to have come across it.

(*Even Obama used it this way. Trump, on the other hand, thinks it is a cup size in Starbucks.)


"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Samuel Johnson.
 
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Here is an interesting discussion about the original meaning of "wicked." Apparently there are still peevers who complain about the current definition of "enormousness."
 
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