|Some words get stretched beyond their elastic
limits and lose their strength. Others, curiously,
take on opposite meanings. “Software
Does Not Fail" complains that the word oversight,
like cleave, can cut both ways ("split apart" or
"cling together"). As "watchful care," the word oversight
is at its best; meanwhile, as an "unintended omission,"
even one oversight can result in disaster.
This observation inspired the author to coin undersight
to replace oversight in contexts where the
distinction really matters (commercial
aviation comes first to mind).
Another case in that point...
inflammable adj. 1.
Tending to ignite easily and burn rapidly; flammable.
2. Quickly or easily aroused to strong emotion; passionate
(dare we use the word hot?)
Flammable and inflammable
are alike in meaning and interchangeable in literal
usage. One can speak of a flammable fluid
or of an inflammable one, both drawn from the
same vessel. Figuratively, one can refer to an inflammable
temperament, but not to a flammable one. Flammable
is especially appropriate where the term serves as a
warning (signage on a tank truck, for example). Flammable
is less susceptible to confusion than inflammable,
which is sometimes mistaken for nonflammable or
flammable adj. Easily
ignitable and capable of burning with great
rapidity; highly combustible; inflammable.