or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Sunday, March 13, 2005


What is it about the word "nonplus" that seems to throw so many people?

A story in The Nashua Telegraph tells of a girl with the gender identity of a boy who's being allowed to dress and act male in school. The story makes it clear that everyone involved is trying to do the right thing, but then comes this sentence:

"[O]verall, the parents have been supportive and the students are for the most part nonplussed."

From the context it's obvious that the writer thinks "nonplussed" means something like "nonchalant". It doesn't, and it never did. From the Latin for "no more", it means that one has no more to say on the subject--that one is literally speechless, or by extension baffled or perplexed.

Some people may have moral or medical objections to the idea of a little girl who wants to be a little boy, and no doubt there'll be discussion on the subject for a long time to come. But believing that "He's nonplussed" means "He's okay with that" is beyond debate: it's just wrong.


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