Has anyone else ever been confounded by the word ‘extraordinary?’
For years, I’ve wondered just how on earth that word could mean what it does. Extra… ordinary?
As in, ordinary x2? As in, the most ordinary person in the world because they’re ordinary to the nth degree?
This is dictionary.com’s meaning of ordinary:
1. of no special quality or interest; commonplace; unexceptional: One novel is brilliant, the other is decidedly ordinary; an ordinary person.
2. plain or undistinguished: ordinary clothes.
3. somewhat inferior or below average; mediocre.
4. customary; usual; normal: We plan to do the ordinary things this weekend.
So based on these descriptors, wouldn’t something or someone who is extra-ordinary be even more boring, commonplace, plain, normal, etc. than something/someone who is merely ordinary?
I know, I know, the origin of the word means something different. It has a Latin base (of course), extra ordinem, which means ‘outside the normal course of events.’ So really, it’s a matter of word choice and setting.
But it still bothers me. I wish the Latin had been just a little different, just a shade lighter or darker so that my peewee brain wouldn’t hurt so much over a word that has, to me, a hint of oxymoronica (made that up).
Maybe it’s because I’m a bit of a literalist (which can be difficult to manage when I’m writing fantasy), so I take people/words/events/conversation as it is written/said, etc. I’ve been told I need a sarcasm sign like Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory.
I take people at their word (a dangerous path, I know), which can lead to a lot of “open mouth, insert foot” moments. This is probably the prime reason that words like extraordinary confound me. I also have a tendency to overanalyze things, but that can lead to some awesome plot points! So I won’t hate myself too badly.
Tell me, are there any words that make you stop and go, hmmm…..?
“Were you born this infuriating?”
“It’s taken me years of practice.”
― Misty Massey, Mad Kestrel