Wrong Word Wednesday #62

Every week I demonstrate an example of poor English where a different word is used from the word intended. Usually, this creates a grammatically incorrect sentence and sometimes it sounds amusing, other times it sounds embarrassing. Unfortunately, the mistake is so pervasive that we all do it and such errors are usually made by those who should know better – journalists working for national or global media outlets such as newspapers and television.

Ambivalent / Apathetic

I really didn’t know today whether I wanted to do one of these. For a while, I really couldn’t be bothered to even think about it. What emotion or attitude was I experiencing there? Virtual cookie for those who said “apathy”, because “ambivalence” would have been completely wrong. Some people use the former as a milder form of apathy, but it’s not. In some ways it’s quite the opposite:

Ambivalence means to have mixed feelings but it does mean that you have feelings. This is what we mean when we say we are torn between two options and have weighed up the options and still can’t decide. “I’m ambivalent about whether to go out tonight. I’m feeling tired after a long week but it may be what I need – I just worry I may not be in the mood when I am out and end up coming home early.”

Apathy means a complete lack of interest, it means you have no feelings on the matter whatsoever; it is akin to indifference which is the opposite of having mixed feelings. “The date went ok; not great but not bad. She was nice, but I am really not bothered about seeing her again. She was keen but I’m completely apathetic.”


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