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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!

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.


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


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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