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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Uninterested / Disinterested

I know the distinction has a complicated history that you could study on several Language Log posts, and that many people who know English very well use "disinterested" to mean "uninterested," but I don't. I would encourage you not to say or write disinterested when you mean uninterested. If you don't even know what I'm talking about, then you should find out. You should at least be well enough informed to know that many educated speakers still maintain that distinction.

2 comments:

Vance Maverick said...

More generally, it's OK to have language preferences short of prescription. I find the distinction between "disinterested" and "uninterested" useful, and I use those words consciously to mark it. At the same time, I can understand texts in which "dis" is used in the sense of "un".

Jonathan said...

I still understand immediately when someone says "disinterested" to mean "un," but I wince inside. I would go so far as to tell a graduate student to maintain that distinction. Simply because enough of us still wince inside.

Nobody (almost) uses "uninterested" in phrases like "an uninterested party..."