To wonder how the word 'mortified' has come to mean horrified?

(39 Posts)
MyChildDoesntNeedSleep Thu 06-Mar-14 23:03:58

Just genuinely wondering. I don't think I've heard it used correctly in the last four years. Is it just the area I live in? I had to check the definition again today after yet another person used it in a strange context as I had started to doubt myself!

MuddlingMackem Thu 06-Mar-14 23:06:12

No, YANBU. I've heard it used incorrectly too. As a pedant it does irritate me rather. grin

AcrylicPlexiglass Thu 06-Mar-14 23:07:04

Doesn't it mean embarrassed?

MuttonCadet Thu 06-Mar-14 23:08:38

I thought it meant so embarrassed you wanted to curl up and die.

I could easily be wrong. hmm

AcrylicPlexiglass Thu 06-Mar-14 23:08:58

humiliated ashamed horrified

All seem on a spectrum?

sleepyhead Thu 06-Mar-14 23:09:19

Lots of people use it incorrectly, but the meaning hasn't changed as far as I know.

(which can be very confusing - Why are you embarrassed about something that isn't your fault? Oh, you've misunderstood the meaning of the word "mortified". How mortifying for you.)

plumnc Thu 06-Mar-14 23:09:36

Haven't yet noticed it being used instead of horrified. Thanks for the warning grin

Hamsolo Thu 06-Mar-14 23:09:47

Horrified as in really embarrassed? I'm not sure I get how they're using it.

scarletforya Thu 06-Mar-14 23:10:20

I take to mean extremely embarrassed and humiliated and ashamed.

OddFodd Thu 06-Mar-14 23:15:02

I've heard it used that way too. It makes me want to scream at people. I've even seen it on here 'AIBU to be mortified that my MIL wants to take my DD away on a week's holiday'

I'm not quite sure how this definition creep happened

Jbck Thu 06-Mar-14 23:16:43

I used it on a thread earlier and meant embarrassed, which is correct.

It's pretty much accepted as interchagable nowadays is it not?

MyChildDoesntNeedSleep Thu 06-Mar-14 23:18:28

Evidently jbck but how the hell did that happen?

OddFodd Thu 06-Mar-14 23:20:38

No, it isn't interchangeable!! It's thick and wrong!

Sorry, I'm getting over excited but it's like people saying 'innit' at the end of sentences like 'Nah, Kyle, you're not having a packet of crisps, innit'

It means something very specific. That you were so embarrassed you wanted to die. That's it. It just ruins the word if it means a more general shocked. It's not more clever because it has three syllables hmm

LongTailedTit Thu 06-Mar-14 23:23:27

I've only ever used or heard it used as meaning absolutely toe-curlingly embarrassed and ashamed, eg "I was mortified to look up and discover the car that stopped for me at the zebra crossing was a hearse, with cortège". Actually happened to me a few weeks ago. I really wanted the ground to swallow me up blush

Jbck Thu 06-Mar-14 23:24:56

I hardly think it's on the same level as innit!

I wouldn't personally use it instead of horrified but lots of words come to mean something other than their original meaning in this way. I don't think they are so far removed from each other as to be unable to see a connection.

lougle Thu 06-Mar-14 23:26:55

The OED says:

"1Cause (someone) to feel very embarrassed or ashamed: she was mortified to see her wrinkles in the mirror (as adjective mortifying) how mortifying to find that he was right

2 Subdue (the body or its needs and desires) by self-denial or discipline: return to heaven by mortifying the flesh

3 [no object] (Of flesh) be affected by gangrene or necrosis: a scratch or cut in Henry’s arm had mortified "

It's correct.

It may not have been correct use then, but it is now. Language evolves with usage.

MyChildDoesntNeedSleep Thu 06-Mar-14 23:28:58

What are you on about, lougle? confused

OddFodd Thu 06-Mar-14 23:29:07

It doesn't mean the same think at all though. Mortified means being really embarrassed. Shocked/extremely surprised is a very different feeling. Apart from the fact that they are extremes of emotion usually felt very intensely for a short period; there's nothing really in common between them.

Particularly when it applies to someone else: 'I was mortified that the head was going out with my son's teacher'. It just doesn't actually make any sense.

lougle Thu 06-Mar-14 23:29:33

"It means something very specific. That you were so embarrassed you wanted to die. That's it."

Very few people feel so embarrassed that they actually want to die, to be fair. It's hyperbole. Mortified is a hyperbolic word, in that sense, so it's a little unfair to criticise people for using the word hyperbolically.

lougle Thu 06-Mar-14 23:30:55

MyChild I mean exactly what I said - the words we use change with usage. Language evolves and word meanings do too.

Jbck Thu 06-Mar-14 23:32:08

Tomato tomato grin

Although I don't agree with Lougle.

MyChildDoesntNeedSleep Thu 06-Mar-14 23:32:20

You just said its correct, although the definitions you pulled out of the dictionary proved otherwise confused

Jbck Thu 06-Mar-14 23:32:56

Well I do in the evolution bit smile just not the definition bit.

OddFodd Thu 06-Mar-14 23:33:07

Your definition is what I'm saying lougle. It says nothing about being generally shocked and horrified. And yes, of course it's hyperbole. That's not the issue though

MyChildDoesntNeedSleep Thu 06-Mar-14 23:34:13

I'm not arguing that it's evolved , just asking why. Have you read the OP?

Mrswellyboot Thu 06-Mar-14 23:34:53

It is used in that (incorrect) context a lot in these parts.

lougle Thu 06-Mar-14 23:40:45

Yes, I've contracted my thought process, sorry.

My point is more that people often use 'horrified' in place of 'embarrassed' so it's not a big leap to use mortified (an extreme 'embarrassed') in place of 'horrified' because they're using horrified as synonymous with embarrassed.

Example:

I was horrified to hear that DD3 had been sent to the Head Teacher's office.

Was the person horrified? Well, no. They had no fear or terror, etc., but they are communicating how much it upset them to hear that news. Why did it upset them? Because it was embarrassing.

Maybe it's a regional thing...certainly from this area people use the words interchangeably.

BOFtastic Thu 06-Mar-14 23:42:26

I agree with you OP. The other one I can't bear is when people substitute "ignorant" for "rude": distinctions in language are incredibly useful, and I really dislike it when meanings are obscured or conflated, because it impoverishes accurate communication.

MyChildDoesntNeedSleep Thu 06-Mar-14 23:44:25

I didn't start this thread in response to the DIY SOS one by the way (just clicked on it and thought 'oh no'!) grin

OddFodd Thu 06-Mar-14 23:45:38

To me the main difference is that you can only use mortified when it relates to you. To something that embarrasses/horrifies you. What people are doing is using it in relation to other people. So that they're mortified to find out that the butcher is shagging the baker.

It implies that there is some kind of personal impact of the butcher shagging the baker.

That's why it really gets on my tits (and yes I realise that's not a literal expression).

BOFtastic Thu 06-Mar-14 23:46:09

And don't get me started on 'disinterested' and 'uninterested'...grin

OddFodd Thu 06-Mar-14 23:46:21

Urgh yes, ignorant <shudder>

meditrina Thu 06-Mar-14 23:53:38

I don't think it is necessarily a synonym for embarrassed in that example. It could be, but it could also be appalled, disgusted, cross.

I think the language is impoverished if the 'wish I were dead' connotations were lost.

And I don't think it isn't yet well established as an alternative meaning. Anyone have an OED update handy?

BlueSkySunnyDay Fri 07-Mar-14 00:00:07

I agree it doesnt work in the 'AIBU to be mortified that my MIL wants to take my DD away on a week's holiday' context.

I do see it as being embarassed/horrified though - "I was totally mortified when I walked across the nightclub and realised my skirt was tucked into my knickers"

LongTailedTit Fri 07-Mar-14 00:29:48

Being horrified at/by yourself can = mortified, but it doesn't work the other way around.

MyChildDoesntNeedSleep Fri 07-Mar-14 00:30:37

Correct!

lessthanBeau Fri 07-Mar-14 09:12:25

Martina cole is to blame for this!

Latara Fri 07-Mar-14 09:20:56

To me 'mortified' means embarrassed, and I think I've only ever heard it being used in this context here...

'ignorant' however does often mean 'rude' here, in fact I thought it meant rude as one of the meanings.

upthedamnwotsit Fri 07-Mar-14 09:21:20

I haven't heard this is real life but I see it more and more online i.e. "My friend was in a car accident and I was mortified when I saw his injuries". Some people definitely think it means the same thing as horrifying and miss out on the embarrassment component.

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