04 November 2015

“You keep using that word…

…I do not think it means what you think it means.” This is classic “The Princess Bride.”

Take the case of supposedly vs. supposably. Many people mistakenly believe that supposably isn’t a word. But it’s actually the adverb of supposable.

The real problem here is usage, or, as Montoya would say, “you keep using that word…I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

A quick review:

  • Supposedly = assumed to be true, always includes a hint of sarcasm (first known use 1566)
  • Supposably = conceivably, possibly or arguably; adverb of supposable (first known use 1627)

As in…

  • Just five hundred years ago the world was supposedly flat.
  • He supposedly stayed home today because of the flu.
  • I could supposably receive my tax return as early as next week.
  • This is supposably the best pizza joint in town.

And now it could supposably be said that everyone supposedly knows the difference.