A plague of “ness”es

A headline in today’s Baltimore Sun notes that an official caught in controversy is being praised for her “candidness.” Whatever happened to “candor”? I’ve also seen “valorousness” for “valor,” “confusedness” for confusion, “cowardliness” for “cowardice,” “maliciousness” for “malice,” “recursiveness” for “recursion” and (more than once) “novitiate” for “novice” (the “novitiate” properly designates the status or the period of time, not the person).

Anyone who spots additional examples of unnecessary suffixization is encouraged to send them in; I’ll try to post a comprehensive list. (Note: “prideful” for “proud’ isn’t a mistake; “prideful” always refers to sinful pride, while “proud” is usually used with a positive connotation, even by those with a Sunday belief that pride is sinful.)

Update Some wonderful additional nominees: “piousness” for “piety,” “pretension” for “pretense” (“pretension” is a perfectly good word, but it means a claim of right or status, as for example the claim made by a pretender to a throne, not merely pretending that something is true), and “admonishment” for “admonition.”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com