Jun 6, 2007

Stop raining on parades

This will be brief. I know language changes, but there is one set of words consistently confused with each other: Damp and dampen.

Examples: Dampen the market rise, dampen the excitement, dampen the fluctuations in defect rates.

The word is damp! Oscillations are damped, not dampened!

Does your fireplace have a damper, or dampener? Probably a device to damp the flow of oxygen, that also closes the chimney altogether. It's possible that you also have a dampener if there is a device to spray water on a fire that's out of control.

There's an odd logic to word substitutions like this. Rain does tend to dampen spirits at a picnic, but most of the time when people use the word, there's no water involved.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not entirely right. Dampen is a verb to indicate the action that makes something damp (or damped).

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/dampen

Damp on the otherhand is used as an adjective, noun, or verb - so it covers all of the bases as you said.

Karen Wilhelm said...

Sorry, I should have looked the word up before making my assertion. I still don't like the use of dampen for something that's not wet, but no one has given me unilateral power over language. Not yet, anyway.

Thanks for reading my blog and for taking the trouble to comment.

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