Colm Doherty’s “fulsome” salary doesn’t buy articulacy

14 September, 2010

The Irish Times reported the other day that AIB’s managing director Colm Doherty had described the price paid for their Polish bank – which Mr Doherty called their “jewel in the crown” – as “a very fulsome price”.

I actually saw him being interviewed on television, using the same word, and I winced.

My gold standard in dictionaries is The Chambers Dictionary, and it defines “fulsome” as meaning “sickeningly obsequious; nauseatingly affectionate, admiring or praiseful”.  In fairness, it goes on to add “loosely: copious or lavish; excessive; (eg of a voice or a woman’s figure) well-developed, well-rounded”.

I suffer from a sad affliction: whenever I hear people use “fulsome” when they mean “full”,  I automatically pigeonhole them as intellectually defective.  This is an unforgiveable trait, but there you go.

Yes, I know that usage has evolved and that a secondary meaning (copious, lavish) has become apparent in everyday parlance.  But if you are the chief executive of a partly-nationalised and controversial bank, witha  salary of €500,000 a year, I expect you to be aware of the original, standard meaning of such words, and avoid using them in the “wrong” context.  Why piss off pedants like me when there are perfectly good alternatives words available ?

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