Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Enthused vs. Enthusiastic

Yvonne writes:
Hi Snarky! In a recent story on about Apple's launch of the new iPhone, one of the bulleted highlights reads:
Some Apple consumers seem less enthused about the company these days.
When did enthused become a word? It just sounds wrong. Isn't the word enthusiastic?
Enthused and enthusiastic are adjectives that mean exactly the same thing: to be filled with enthusiasm. But a lot of people seem to think enthused is less legitimate than enthusiastic.

One reason may be that enthused is newer. According to Merriam-Webster, enthusiasm and enthusiastic have been in use since 1603, while the first known use of enthuse was in 1827. Enthused, its part participle, became an adjective.

As recently as a few generations ago, school kids were taught to use enthusiastic rather than enthused. I suspect that this was because enthuse, the verb, was created through backformation. That's a fancy term for when a shorter word, typically a verb, is created from a longer word, typically a noun.

When a new word is formed, it often takes a while for it to catch on and gain acceptance. But guess what? English is absolutely chockablock with backformations. Televise came from television, escalate from escalator, diagnose from diagnosis, obsess from obsession, surveil from surveillance, automate from automation, and so on.

If you personally prefer enthusiastic, go right ahead and use it. But know that enthused has been around for long enough to be considered perfectly acceptable.


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  2. "Enthused" is a word I've always heard in the negative or ironic sense--(I'm) "not too enthused about doing X" No one ever said, "Yes, I'm enthused about that". Nor have I ever heard the verb form spoken aloud--"The coach enthused his players" I think it is quite possible to use "enthused" in the positived sense--"He was so enthused about the game that he painted his body orange and blue". I would say that "enthusiastic" simply means that someone FEELS motivated and excited about an activity, wheras "enthused" means that someone is actually INFUSED with enthusiasm--a subtle, but important, difference.