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Five words that we mistakenly believe to know the meaning


"Regret", "fundamental", "intuitive" ... We use these words every day. But do we really know their definition?

These are terms we use every day. They are commonplace, perfectly understood. Or at least, that's what we would like to believe. Because their meaning has evolved. Usage has sometimes changed their essential definition. Are we sure we know the language of Molière? Le Figaro offers an overview of these terms that we use wrongly.

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“You will see, it is not that complicated: this software is quite intuitive.” Today, we use the adjective in the sense of “easy to use” , “easy to access” . Let us note however that at the origin, is intuitive "what results, which concerns intuition or which proceeds by intuition" , we read on the site Say / Do not say of the French Academy. This word " qualifies abstract notions linked to knowledge, thought, etc."

Borrowed from scholastic Latin intuitio , it was already found at a low time in the sense of “sight, look” , specifies Le Trésor de la langue française. Term itself derived from intueri , “watch carefully; have the thought fixed on " . In philosophy, intuition qualifies a "direct and immediate knowledge of a truth which presents itself to the thought with the clarity of an evidence" . So we can speak of intuitive knowledge, intuitive certainty. The French Academy specifies that, by extension, the adjective "intuitive" can "apply to a person who understands, acts while being guided by intuition" . Example: an intuitive student; an intuitive researcher.


We use this adjective to describe what is lugubrious, sinister, dreary or even sneaky. Be aware, however, that "glaucous" first designates what "is whitish green or bluish like sea water". In figurative terms, Le Trésor de la langue française notes, it can be used in the sense of: "which lacks clarity and precision" . "A lightness of the brain whose thoughts became clear and, from opaque and glaucous, became fluid and iridescent," writes Huysmans in À rebours.


... or remorse? It is not unusual to confuse them. Let's come back to their definitions. As we read in Le Trésor de la langue française, "remorse" is the noun of the verb "remaître" which, formerly, meant "torment" , "critiquer severely" or even, "prohibit" , noted Claude Duneton. Then, "cause moral pain by sharp reproaches".

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"Regret is not morally charged," wrote the writer again. Indeed, in the old language, "to regret" meant "to indulge in lamentations about (a dead man, etc.)" , we read in Le Trésor de la langue française. "The regret, specifies the French Academy, it is the" displeasure to have lost a good which one possessed, or to have missed that which one could have acquired "".


“This is a fundamental clarification!” We can hear. The adjective is often used in the sense of "large, important, primordial" , notes the French Academy. However, "it essentially has two meanings" : "it qualifies what serves as a basis, a foundation for a system, for an institution" . Thus, one evokes "fundamental laws" . But also, "he describes what is essential, what is essential" . We will therefore refer, for example, to the "fundamental document of a trial".


Not to be confused with the verb "exterminate"! Indeed, "decimate" comes from the Latin decimare which means "to punish one in ten soldiers with death after drawing lots, when a unit behaved badly" , remind the academicians. This is the reason why this term, by analogy, ended up meaning “to remove, to make disappear a certain number of elements from a set” or even, “to deprive of something” , is it specified in Le Treasure of the French language.

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Source: lefigaro

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