A New Word That’s Not a Word: Disconcerning

Lately I have been hearing the word "disconcerning." When it came up yesterday in an interview on NPR (National Public Radio), I knew it was time to write about it. 

"Disconcerning" is actually not a word–at least not a correct one. I've just checked all my dictionaries and style guides. With several of them piled on my desk, I can tell you confidently: "Disconcerning" is simply not a word. 

If the non-word has crept into your vocabulary, below are words you may intend: 

Disconcerting may mean "embarrassing," "confusing," "frustrating" (as in "upsetting"), or "disturbing the composure of" depending on the context.

Examples:

  • It's disconcerting that the speaker hasn't arrived yet, and his talk should begin in 10 minutes. (frustrating, upsetting, disturbing) 
  • How disconcerting for Karen that the speaker she hired and bragged about did not even show up! (embarrassing, upsetting) 
  • It's disconcerting that my sister is suddenly talking about moving in with us. (disturbing the composure of) 

 

Discomfiting means "making uneasy or perplexed," "disconcerting." Yes, it's a synonym of disconcerting in some contexts. An archaic meaning is "defeating in battle, vanquishing." 

Examples: 

  • It's discomfiting that all the lights are on at their house, but no one is home. (making uneasy or perplexing, disconcerting) 
  • His outrageous behavior is discomfiting his associates. 

 

Discomforting means "making uncomfortable," "distressing." As you can guess, it's a synonym for both of the words above. However, Garner's Modern English Usage prefers discomfort as a noun rather than this verb form. Garner recommends the word discomfiting rather than discomforting. 

 

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When I choose words for my business communications, clarity wins out over all other concerns. So I don't use disconcerting, discomfiting, or discomforting. Instead I choose words I hope all my readers understand: embarrassing, upsetting, annoying, frustrating, confusing–and maybe worrisome. 

You may choose fancier words, but be sure one of them is not disconcerning. 

Which made up words have you been hearing and seeing in business messages?

 

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Lynn
Syntax Training 

12 COMMENTS

  1. Cathy, thanks for mentioning “irregardless.” Bryan Garner describes it as “a semiliterate portmanteau word from ‘irrrespective’ and ‘regardless'” that “should have been stamped out long ago.” We agree!

    Bart, thanks for “reply back.” Some people who write to me from the other side of the word use “revert back,” which is equally redundant.

    Channaka, thanks for adding your example. It supports the information I have presented.

    Lynn

  2. The one that I hear consistently is the use of “ideal” when the word “idea” is what they really intend to say, and it is not just mispronouncing it.

  3. Or how about this one:
    “I think I’ll pay a visit to my neighbors, ‘ACROSST’ the street.” Never have I ever heard that “word” said more than when I lived in the New England area.
    Unless I’ve been living under a rock & that is actually an acceptable variation… if so, then I stand corrected & my apologies. But I always believed it to be simply “across the street” or “across the hall”, etc, etc.

    Please “reply back” at your “earliest convenience”, or that will be “disconcerning” to me. Hahaha, I’m a little jokester. I know, nails on chalkboard.

    Be well & peace to you all.

  4. On a local news station one of the news reports said, “don’t be ascared”, instead of afraid. I was incredulous. This person was hired by a major network as a television news reporter!

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