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Noting With Disapproval

By Evan Jenkins

If “notorious,” which has nothing negative in its roots, nonetheless has come to have the very negative meaning “infamous,” what is “notoriety”? One dictionary’s definition — “the quality of being notorious” — seems unassailable. So when the writer said it was “not in Thomas’s personality to court notoriety,” the passage was open to misunderstanding; other things made it clear that the aim was a compliment, and the word a poor choice. As a synonym for simple fame, “notoriety” has gained ground. But it’s still better used to mean a bad reputation — ill fame. Less room for misunderstanding.


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Sept / Oct 08

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