Bursting into Flames with This Week’s Wacky Word

Keep the “wacky words” coming! Thanks to all of you who have been commenting and adding to our wacky-word conversation these past few weeks. Please continue to post your questions and share your examples. This week’s winner is inflammable.

Do flammable and inflammable have the same meaning?

I’ll put on my technical writing instructor hat to answer this one. In my Technical Writing for Non-Technical Employees class, I teach participants not to use inflammable as it is ambiguous. While it means “easy to burn” or “easily combustible,” it can be mistaken as its opposite because of the in-. The prefix in- generally means “not,” so you can see how confusing it can be. 

Solution: Use flammable.

While flammable and inflammable aren’t true synonyms because of a slight difference in their definitions (one means “easy to burn,” and “one means “can burst into flames easily”) the opposite of both words is nonflammable.


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