Recent Posts

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Word of the Day!

In honor of my friend at Katy Streams Her Consciousness, I have decided to make today's Word of the Day! busybody.

busybody [biz-ee-bod-ee]
-noun, plural -bodies.
a person who pries into or meddles in the affairs of others.

I, for one, have misused this word my entire life primarily because I never bothered to look it up and my internal definition of the word seemed to gel with everyone else's. I think the reason why this word is so often misused is because the actual meaning is very different from the combination of the two words that make it up. "Busy" has seven different definitions, the most often cited being "full of or characterized by activity" while "body" is obviously most often referring to the "physical person of an individual" hence the literal definition implied by the connecting of these two words would be that a busybody is one who is unable to refrain from physical activity. That is how I have always understood the word.

But apparently I'm incorrect. It seems that the real definition of busybody utilizes a far rarer definition for the first root word: "busy: officious; meddlesome; prying". This understanding of the word "busy" combined with "body" then takes on a different character, one far more suited to the actual definition.

Thank you, Katy, for calling my attention to this misusage.

2 comments:

Kb_Mal said...

You're welcome! You're not alone though, as I've heard more people use the word literally (as you mention - the literal meanings of the two root words making up the word) than with its true definition.

Shine light on some more misused words. I love it!

Tres Crow said...

I've got some more coming. Just stuff as it comes to me. I was going to write about Nauseous v. Nauseated until I started researching it and found out that the two have been used interchangably for nearly a century and are now considered to be the same word, essentially. Only grammatical curmudgeons still insist on the distinction, and since I definitely don't fall in the grammatical curmudgeon category, I decided to drop it. Still, figured you'd find it interesting nonetheless.