In the midst of the mishmash of vowels and consonants that we call the English language, there are things called words. Words have meanings, and usually the meaning stay the same over the years. Except sometimes they change. Sometimes the meanings totally reverse!


You know what charming means. You know that someone who is charming is very delightful and pleasing. So how come when someone were to do something like demonstrate how they can fit a whole banana in their mouth and fill in any gaps with peanut butter that a typical reaction to that would be, “urgh, charming!” Seeing someone with a mouthful of semi-chewed banana and peanut butter is not charming. So why do we say it is?


Something that is riveting is something that holds the attention. It engrosses, it fascinates. So why, after that really boring company meeting where that really boring manager droned on and on about his vision for the company and no one was really paying attention and instead day dreamed about the weekend, why was it described as “sooo riveting”?

Why? Because it’s supposedly sarcasm. When someone describes a gross-out situation as charming, they don’t really mean that they were charmed by it.

But it’s going beyond sarcasm. It’s got to the point where riveting means dull and boring and it seems odd to hear it used to describe something that’s engrossing, and charming has come to mean gross and ill-mannered and it’s strange hearing someone whose pleasant and polite described as charming. So when people actually use charming or riveting for their real, non-sarcastic meanings, it can be really confusing.

“That speech was totally riveting!”
“That bad, huh?”
“Er, no, it was great!”

“How’d your dinner with Dave go?”
“He was totally charming.”
“Urgh, all men are pigs.”

My point is (and I think I have one somewhere in here) that being too sarcastic doesn’t work and will just end in tears.

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