Friday, January 27, 2017

Dazed and Bemused

Confused about nonplussed and bemused? You’re not alone.

I must admit that nonplussed and bemused are not words I use a lot. But I’ve been seeing them in writing more and more, and most of the time, they are not being used correctly.

What do you think nonplussed means? If you think it means something like “calm, unfazed,” you are not alone. But that is not correct. It actually comes from Latin “non plus,” meaning “no more,” and it describes that feeling when you are so flabbergasted you have nothing more to say. Picture a nonplussed person as slack-jawed and tongue-tied in disbelief.

If you mean “unfazed,” you could try “impassive” or “stoic,” but not nonplussed.

Similarly, I keep seeing people using “bemused” when what they really mean is “amused.” Though these two words obviously share the same root, muse, they are not synonyms. We all know what amuse means: to distract, in a pleasant way. “To bemuse” means to distract in an unpleasant way – “to confuse” or “to befuddle” – much like nonplus.

So, if what I am telling you leaves you flabbergasted, tongue-tied, and confused, then you are nonplussed and bemused. You’re welcome.