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‘Enormity’

[18 Dec 2011] The traditional meaning of ‘enormity’ – extreme wickedness – is gradually falling out of fashion, much like that of ‘refute’. The newspapers are full of people who use it to mean ‘great size’, ie enormousness.

Typical is a runner who has just staggered 3,126 miles across the USA for charity. After leaping in to the Atlantic to cool his seared feet, he told the Yorkshire Post: ‘The enormity of the whole event hasn’t really sunk in yet.’

And isn’t it strange how long it takes things to sink in to the sporting brain? You’d think 3,126 miles would allow ample time for certain key facts to penetrate. But ‘To be honest, it’s not really sunk in yet’ is now a staple among victorious performers in the post-event interview.

You just hope that an interviewer will once, just once, reply: ‘But when you spend your whole life training to win matches and races, why does it take so long for success to sink in?’

The other day, an athlete even declared after her triumph: ‘I don’t think it will ever sink in.’  [MC]

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