March 01, 2018

Are You Out of Your Mind?

Are You Out of Your Mind?
Victor Bogorad

Among linguists there is a phenomenon called the “frequency fallacy.” This is when you think “suddenly everyone is saying X” but everyone has been saying X for decades and you’ve only just noticed it. Once you notice it, you pay attention to it and it seems that it is being said more and more. Actually, you’re just listening for it more and more.

My personal frequency fallacy concerns the antonyms адеква́тный and неадеква́тный (literally, adequate and inadequate). At some point I noticed a major shift in usage, and once I noted it, it seemed like the whole country was doing it.

At first glance these aren’t tricky words. They came to Russian from Latin via French in the eighteenth century and mean in Russian more or less what they mean in English: адеква́тный, адеква́тно (adequate, adequately) and неадеква́тный, неадеква́тно (inadequate, inadequately).

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