Words

Enormity n.
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The Independent Culture
ENORMITY and enormousness ought to mean the same, but somewhere in the etymological meanderings of the language, they took different courses.

Both originally simply meant anything out of (e-) the norm or standard (normis), but some time around the middle of the 19th century, enormity restricted itself to cases of ethical abnormality, while enormousness became synonymous with vastness.

When, last month, the Daily Telegraph referred to "the enormity of the task" of organising the Chelsea Flower Show, wickedness was probably not what it had in mind; though when the Sunday Mercury last week said that "South Africa may not have the infrastructure to cope with the enormity of the World Cup", it may have been inadvertently correct.

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