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Wicked, Wicked Stocks

February 7th, 2005 · 4 Comments

Flipping through the new Atlantic Monthly, I spot an ad for an index-fund stock called Spider. The headline promises “the enormity of the S&P 500 in one little share.” Yeah, yeah, I know it’s become synonymous with “large size,” but I still got a chuckle out of it.

Tags: Language and Literature



4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 David // Feb 7, 2005 at 1:57 pm

    Thanks for sharing, since I never really knew the definition of enormity. I always used it for “large size”; all that time, and according to Merriam-Webster, I was being subtle. Who knew.

  • 2 Glen Whitman // Feb 7, 2005 at 4:28 pm

    I don’t have a copy of the OED, but I think I heard that the “enormity = moral badness” story had been debunked. As I recall, it turned out the use of enormity to mean largeness has been around since very early in the word’s history — maybe even before the moral badness sense.

  • 3 Julian Sanchez // Feb 7, 2005 at 5:26 pm

    Well, most of the online dictionaries I’ve used give the “moral wickedness” definition first, then mention the “bigness” definition with a note usage panels are split on whether that one’s admissible. Either way, the ambiguity yields a fair amount of humor potential (which is one reason I’m inclined to go with the usage panel on this one).

  • 4 PJ Doland // Feb 8, 2005 at 10:51 am

    Here’s what the OED says (without usage examples):

    1. Divergence from a normal standard or type; abnormality, irregularity. Obs. or arch.

    2. Deviation from moral or legal rectitude. In later use influenced by ENORMOUS 3: Extreme or monstrous wickedness.

    3. Excess in magnitude; hugeness, vastness. Obs.; recent examples might perh. be found, but the use is now regarded as incorrect.

    The etymology entry shows:

    [ad. Fr. �©normit�©, ad. L. enormitatem, f. {enormis (see ENORM).]

    Enorm indicates:

    e = out + norma = mason’s square, pattern.