Tuesday, May 20, 2014

perverse/perverted: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The sex-related meanings of words tend to drive out all other meanings. Most people think of both “perverse” and “perverted” only in contexts having to do with desire; but “perverse” properly has the function of signifying “stubborn,” “wrong-headed.” Nothing erotic is suggested by this sort of thing: “Josh perversely insisted on carving wooden replacement parts for his 1958 Ford’s engine.” It’s better to use “perverted” in relation to abnormal sexual desires; but this word also has non-sexual functions, as in “The bake-sale was perverted by Gladys into a fundraiser for her poker habit.”

People sometimes mispronounce “pervert” as “PREE-vert.”

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