Words to avoid by Radio NZ

An interesting feature on the Radio NZ website:

There are a couple of words people often use, not fully appreciating how they might be interpreted. Our staff are advised to avoid them altogether.


This word is frequently used by those who think it means full, or absolute, not realising that it can actually mean insincere or exaggerated. So a fulsome apology can be interpreted as a totally insincere one!

The same sort of thing applies to enormity

Our advice to staff is also to avoid enormity. It is often said by those who use it to mean big, and do not appreciate that it can actually mean evil or wicked.

If you mean the large size of something, we would suggest saying largeness, enormousness, or hugeness, rather than enormity when you may risk being misinterpreted.

The following groups of words are easily and often confused. While they may sound similar, they have different meanings:

Floundering and foundering

To flounder is to struggle or have difficulty; to founder is to sink or fail.

Alternate and alternative

Alternate and alternative are also often confused. Alternate means happening or following in turns, as in alternate days; alternative means available in place of something else.

Appraise and apprise:

When you estimate the value of something, you appraise it; when you inform people of something, you apprise them of it.

Reticent and reluctant

We regard reticent as meaning unwilling to speak, or being silent. Staff are advised not to use reticent when reluctant, meaning disinclined to do something, is more appropriate.


Staff are instructed that a person who owns or runs a restaurant is a restaurateur. There is no “n” in the word and it is pronounced rest-(uh)-ruh-TER [IPA: ˌrestərəˈtɜː]

The years

For the years gone by, for example, 2008, 2009, it is our policy to say two-thousand-and-eight, two-thousand-and-nine etc… From 2010 and beyond, we say twenty-ten, twenty-eleven, twenty-fifteen, twenty-twenty etc.

I was unaware of the double meaning of fulsome. Very interesting.

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