Thursday, October 14, 2010


I nearly choked on my Chilean Merlot last night (drunk to celebrate the rescue of the trapped Chilean miners rather than out of any dependence on the tranquilising effects of alcohol, honest) when Apprentice contestant Melissa used the expression "to find comfortability" while referring to her team's hopeless product the Book-Eze, designed to make reading on the beach less onerous (watch from about 30-31 minutes into this episode if you want to hear it for yourself).Am I getting prescriptive in my old age?

"Comfortability"? Is it a real word? When I type it wrongly, my Blogger spellcheck corrects it, so Blogger thinks it's real. I've checked it on WebCorp and it seems to appear on several US business websites and it gets used  by American footballer, Shawne Merriman here. But what does it mean? And why not just "comfort"?

This guy claims he coined it to refer to an ability to be "fully present/comfortable in an uncomfortable situation". I can't find it in the OED or Merriam-Webster, but it appears as long ago as 1984 as part of a medical test, "A Comfortability Level Scale for Performance of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation". Weird...

So, is this like conversate: a word that might have originally just been a mistake, a slip of the tongue, and which gets picked up and spread into wider usage because of its apparently impressive sound? Is it better than "comfort", and, more importantly, will I be able to read my Girl With The Dragon Tattoo on Bognor beach in comfortability?

Getting the Word Out 2022

WOTY (Word of the Year) Season is in full swing and the lists from the various dictionaries and organisations who produce them, along with t...