"I Do not Think It Means what You Think It Means"

The title of this page comes from a quote from the Princess Bride. After one character says "impossible" to describe something that is clearly happening several times, another turns and says "That word you keep saying, I do not think it means what you think it means."

This page is not quite dedicated to such things. Instead, I take words that are commonly misused in the common vernacular and either bring up their more technical meaning or their correct one. I will also suggest some reasons, when they are apparent, why the meaning shift occurred. They are presented in alphabetical order, and I will try to reference some source outside of my own memory to back up my claims.

I will add them as I come across them.


Originally used to describe the amount of energy unusable in a system, and therefore implying that amount of "stillness" in a system; entropy now is used to describe chaos, riotry and clutter. Though, in chemistry, I believe, it can refer to randomness in the system, the name is often the opposite of what we attribute.

I suppose the definition change, or at least using a single part of the definition to imply the word means mostly that one part of the definition, came out of the human idea that everything descends into chaos. When the thermodynamic law came about to state that everything develops entropy over time we took that one step further and interpreted that to mean that everything degenerates into madness over time. And increased entropic state can be thought of as sugar dissolving into water, where the sugar becomes more and more evenly dispersed until there is no sugar left (albeit, you could get the sugar out, while I think entropy is supposed to be irreversible).

Source: Dictionary.com/Entropy


Made famous by a song of the same name by Alanis Morrisette, irony has traditionally referred to using words to imply something else than what is directly stated. Occasionally, it would refer to part of the picture being hidden. For instance, you might have a character in a book or a play who says he is going to go and save someone, but the audience/reader knows that the person is already dead.

In standard language, though, it has come to mean something else. "Tragedy" is a close synonym. We refer to things being ironic if, for instance, the father going to work to earn money to pay for a medical procedure for his daughter meant that he was not there to drive her to the hospital and so she died.

I am not sure why the meaning would have changed, and so rapidly and in a lot of ways in a completely unexpected direction. I think it might because there is no good word to describe what we currently use irony to mean. Tragic sort of feets. Unexpectedly. Unfortunately. All of them carry a slightly wrong connotation. On the other hand, we use words like "puns" and "sarcasm" and "lies" to describe the actual use of the word irony. It probably was a gradual change rooted in irony to point out the faults of a system. "Ironically, Tom was promised a better life but he had to give much up to get it," for instance.

Fittingly, Alanis Morisette's song was ironic in that it did not describe irony at all, even though it claimed as much.

Source: Dictionary.com/Irony


This one I don't know about it. A meme is a social/memory equivalent to a gene. For instance, the idea of loyalty to a state passed down from father to son is a meme. The idea of red being a power color is a meme. The can change over time. Evolve. The loyalty to a state might increase or decrease. The notion of what red means might change. Red might have started being connected to blood, and therefore passion. This alters to it becoming a color strength.

For some odd reason, "meme" is quickly be used to refer to a questionnaire or quiz. It seems to be rooted in blogland. I think the change over happened after some "meme" quizzes popped up. Things such as "What does the color red make you think of?" or "What animal would you like to passion?" These would be used to expose memes, and somehow the terminology got stuck. Sort of like polymorph (meaning many bodies) got changed to "Mighty 'Morphin Power Rangers", meaning Might Body Power Rangers, which I suppose works but edits out the wrong word. I do give them that poly-power rangers seems a bit weird.

Similarly, I think the phrase "meme quiz" got mixed up in people's head and changed over to just "meme". Maybe.

Source: Dictionary.com/Meme


Actual meaning: pretending to be great, making a false claim to greatness that it does not deserve. Improper Usage meaning: a movie, book, author, artist or whatever that other people like and I don't, therefore it must be that they are pretending to like it, therefore it must be pretentious.

At best guess, this word constitutes 97% of the instances of the letter "p" on IMDB.com.

The Final Irony: nearly ever post that uses the word "pretentious" as a point of contention is in itself pretentious, in that the truth claim of the post is that everyone who thinks the movie (etc) is great simply hasn't viewed it in the proper way to realize how the poster is the correct one and those that enjoy the movie are foolish and very, very wrong. These posts include phrases like "I know movies" and "as a film student, I..."

Written by W Doug Bolden

For those wishing to get in touch, you can contact me in a number of ways

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

The longer, fuller version of this text can be found on my FAQ: "Can I Use Something I Found on the Site?".

"The hidden is greater than the seen."