Grammar Moses: Being accommodative and reserving judgment

 
 
Updated 11/14/2021 2:42 PM

Marion Blais saw a story in the Nov. 9 Business section that included the passage " ... not necessarily being more accommodative, continuing to favor candidates with several years of experience ..."

"I could not find 'accommodative' in M-W," Marion wrote. "Is this a case of unilateral linguistic expansion? What happened to that good ol' workhorse 'accommodating'?"

 

My timeworn Webster's New World Dictionary (published in 1994) includes "accommodative" as an adjectival form of "accommodate," meaning "willing to fit in with someone's wishes or needs."

That's essentially the definition of "accommodating."

According to Google's Ngram Viewer, which tracks word usage in books, "accommodative" arrived on the scene around the time of Lincoln's presidency, but didn't make much of a dent in the popularity of "accommodating."

In books these days, "accommodating" is used nine times as often as "accommodative."

Sorry to burst your bubble, Marion.

Hyperbole

Dorene Wackerfuss and I are like this (picture two fingers smashed together).

She had something to add to my recent column questioning whether the "Forever Roll" toilet paper roll could last even one person an entire month as advertised.

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"The thing that really irritates both me and my husband is the fact that it is even called that, given that a month is not forever," she wrote. "So many products are touted with hyperbole. A window company's radio ad claims that their windows have 'endless options.' Resorts feature 'endless activities.' That would become tiring, and I'd need a vacation after that. False advertising!"

To my way of thinking, the only truly endless things, besides the universe, of course, are the sexiness of Paul Rudd and a game of Monopoly you play with young, distracted children.

What fun would advertising be without a little hyperbole?

To wit:

"This little car will give you 58 miles to the gallon, but it maxes out at 58 miles per hour."

"The beautiful red paint job on your convertible only makes it look like it goes faster. It really doesn't. And it makes it like you're trying too hard."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"You'll be the envy of the fashion set when you wear this $1,100 black T-shirt, but you won't be able to buy groceries for the next month."

I think you get my point.

What's normal?

"I may be wrong on this one, since the internet suggests that 'normal' is a synonym for 'average.' And the words appear in each other's definitions in the dictionary," writes Kay Cahill.

"However, I see a difference. I think if you're describing a person, a medical/psychological professional should be the one to determine if a person is 'normal.' Anyone can calculate that the person is 'average.'"

There are different schools of thought on this, Kay. Here is my take:

Think of the antonym of "normal": "abnormal."

Has a rather judgmental tone to it, n'est-ce pas?

I would trust a clinician to say, "Hey, that mole on your back that has concentric rings and reminds me of Saturn is abnormal."

I would trust a psychiatrist, a case worker or a perfect stranger to assess me as "abnormal" after a two-minute conversation.

But then I'm guessing you, dear reader, already have pegged me as such.

"Average" feels more like "typical" or "usual," expressed without judgment.

So if you're being mindful of not coming off as judgy, it's probably best to stick to "average."

Write carefully!

• Jim Baumann is vice president/executive editor of the Daily Herald. You can buy Jim's new book, "Grammar Moses: A humorous guide to grammar and usage," at grammarmosesthebook.com. Feel free to write him at jbaumann@dailyherald.com and put "Grammar Moses" in the subject line. You can friend or follow Jim at facebook.com/baumannjim.

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