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Word for the Wise November 01, 2006 Broadcast Topic: Preposterous, absurd, and ludicrous

A longtime listener musing about words toyed with the idea of ranking certain adjectives. How does one locate absurd in comparison with preposterous, for example? And where does ludicrous fit into this hierarchy? (来源:英语杂志 http://www.EnglishCN.com)

Although all three terms can be used synonymously, if we had to rank them in increasing absurdity we would do so in the order in which they appeared in English: preposterous, then absurd, and then ludicrous. But then we抎 be dissatisfied and reverse that order. Let抯 take a look.

It isn抰 surprising the Latin ancestor of preposterous literally means reversed; that word contains both pre- meaning forward plus posterus meaning following. When the word preposterous first appeared, it meant contrary to nature, reason, or common sense; absurd; nonsensical. Appropriately enough, it was only later that preposterous developed its sense meaning having or placing something first that should be last.

Absurd, meaning ridiculously unreasonable, unsound, or incongruous, has an ancestor in surd, which itself comes from the Latin surdus meaning deaf, stupid and which means lacking sense, reason, or rationale.

Then there抯 ludicrous, with an ancestor in the Latin word for game; play; sport. Ludicrous is the term for something amusing or laughable through obvious absurdity, incongruity, exaggeration, or eccentricity. Something so absurd or preposterous to excite both laughter and scorn is ludicrous.

 
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