For instance, enervate. It means to deprive of strength, to enfeeble. Yet many people think it means the opposite--to pep up.
Another is fulsome, meaning coarse, sickening, repulsive, disgusting. But many persons believe it means the reverse--flattering or adulatory.
Onetime adman Jack Smalley wrote a commercial for a wine account describing a product as "fulsome in flavor." Pat Bishop recorded it and it was broadcast for several weeks--until a university prof suggested someone consult the dictionary.
HORRIFIED, Jack withdrew the commercial and since that time has brooded over the world.
Whenever he found it improperly used by others he felt a little better but his error left a wound.
A few days ago, however, Jack came upon this sentence by that master of English, W. Somerset Maugham, in the introduction to "The Portable Dorothy Parker":
"Fancy not knowing that a writer will accept fulsome praise as only his due, but will grizzle and grieve over a hint of imperfection as though his publisher had gypped him, his wife betrayed him and his son gone into the movies."
He says the last sting has been drawn.
SOMETIMES the mad, gay social whirl becomes more than a person can take, even for a gal who gets around, as does Mary O'Brien, the advertising lady at The Broadway.
It sounded very provocative, but Mary has sent her regrets.
ONE OF MY operatives on bat-cave patrol came upon two soiled gentlemen discussing a certain police officer.
"Aw, what did he ever do?" snarled one.
"For one thing, he arrested you," replied the other.
"Well, he better not take all the credit for that, he better spread it around," said the first. "I been arrested by four or five other guys, too, you know."
THE PEOPLE at a party got to discussing unaccountable things that happen--strange noises in the night, disappearance of objects, weird experiences involving life and death, and so on. Some attributed them to coincidence or natural causes, others to psychic phenomena and extrasensory perception.
A woman who had listened intently but contributed nothing to the discussion finally got her chance. "I have a strange power myself," she said. "I attract wrong numbers on the telephone."
ONLY IN L.A. -- Kendis Rochlen's car stalled on Santa Monica Boulevard near La Cienega and a mink-coated woman at the wheel of a 1958 Cadillac behind her leaned on her horn then swung out and around her. As she passed she yelled, "Why don't you get out of the way--I'm late to work!" Kendis couldn't help thinking it must have been nice work.
MISCELLANY -- Who says the dollar isn't worth more than it used to be? A woman flying back from Las Vegas had to pay nearly $3 for an overweight bag--in which she had placed 50 silver dollars... Between editions, the rewrite boys worked out this definition of a pundit: a man with a plethora of opinion, a paucity of information and a ptypewriter... Ivan Cazier of Arcadia inquires, "What about the Dodgers playing at Santa Anita?" At least there's plenty of parking space.