Pride, as an African American
I want to express to you how wonderfully written your article on Dr.
Blalock and Vivien Thomas was ["Almost a Miracle," February].
As an African American, I was able to feel such pride, enthusiasm, dignity
and love for both Vivien Thomas and Dr. Blalock. Your article depicted
the true spirit of both men. Had I not seen the production [on television]
on Feb. 10, I know I would have gotten the "guts" of the story
from your article.
Human Resources Benefits Administration
Enormity: An Etymology
Your use of the word enormity adds much humor to your publication, although
I believe is unintentional on your part. It's a word that has a meaning
different from what might be expected: according to Webster's dictionary
it means "an outrageous, improper, vicious, or immoral act."
It therefore comes as a surprise that in reference to a surgical breakthrough
by Alfred Blalock and Vivien Thomas ["Almost a Miracle," February]
you write: "the enormity of that day alone was enough to rivet
Dome also used the word enormity a few years ago in reference
to Bloomberg's generous financial gifts to the School of Public Health;
the article was passed around and served as a source of quite a few
jokes. Unless you are using the word "enormity" as a way to
make subtle comments, you may want to tell your copy editor to prevent
the use of this word in the future.
Department of Mental Health
Bloomberg School of Public Health
Ed.s Note: We dusted off our Webster's and found three
- a grave offense against order, right, or decency
- the quality or state of being immoderate, monstrous, or outrageous
- the quality or state of being huge.
Webster's continues with the following discussion of usage:
"Enormity, some people insist, is improperly used to denote large
size and is properly used only to denote wickedness, outrage, or crime.
They recommend 'enormousness' for large size. Enormousness, however,
is simply not a popular word. It developed later than enormity and in
about the same way: its first sense (equivalent to enormity 1) appears
to have dropped out of use; its second sense is used less frequently
than sense 3 of enormity. Enormity's third sense has continued in use
from the end of the eighteenth century; it has been stigmatized as incorrect,
for unknown reasons, since the end of the nineteenth."
Dome enthusiastically welcomes debates on style and usage - and
stands by its use of enormity.