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Words: Impassionate adj.

SURELY THIS is the most useless word in English. If you look up impassionate in Chambers Dictionary you will find its meaning given as "impassioned, dispassionate" - in other words, full of passion or totally without passion.

This exposes a small fault line in the language: the use of the prefix in- (or im-) either to negate or to signify an inward motion.

The Romans bequeathed us this problem, though it never seemed to confuse them so much. They coped perfectly happily with two verbs flammare, to blaze, and inflammare, to kindle or catch fire.

And that is why, since 1959, the British Standards Institute has recommended the use of flammable and non-flammable to avoid confusing people who might take flammable and inflammable as opposites.