I can’t remember if I’ve covered this one before, but it’s always worth having a little reminder. I’ve just seen that David Moyes, the new manager of Manchester United, is quoted as saying that ‘the enormity of the job is sinking in’.
I suppose he might mean that literally, but I doubt it. Enormity ought to mean ‘enormousness’, or something on a big scale, but it doesn’t. It isn’t to do with size at all but quality, and conveys a sense of nastineness or even wickedness.
In my experience, when it does crop up it is one of the most frequently misused words, and understandably so because its construction makes it very misleading. Even the Collins online dictionary offers up, after the correct definitions, the option of ‘vastness of size or extent’, adding in parentheses ‘informal’ – otherwise known as ‘wrong’. Shame on dictionaries that collude in the dumbing down of our language!