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flammable, inflammable and how not to be flammable

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flammable, inflammable and how not to be flammable

Postby adama » Thu Nov 10, 2005 9:31 pm

flammable- able to be set on fire
inflammable- able to be set on fire, able to be made angry
(he has a inflammable temper)

so the question is how to not be flammable.

Is it
imflammable
unflammable or
non flammable?

i saw the word inflammable in a news article and incorrectly understood it as unable to be set on fire. however, in my "journey" to finding out what it meant i realised i dont know the correct way to say the opposit of flammable. also why these two words share a common definition that doesnt use a different word to show the degree of it (such as annoyed vs enraged, both forms of angry just to a different degree). it seems redundent.
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Postby Stargzer » Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:27 pm

Ah, one of the classic confusing words in English! :)

Short answer: use flammable to mean something that can burn and nonflammable for something that can't.

flammable

SYLLABICATION: flam·ma·ble
PRONUNCIATION: flăm'ə-bəl
ADJECTIVE: Easily ignited and capable of burning rapidly; inflammable.
ETYMOLOGY: From Latin flammāre, to set fire to, from flamma, flame. See bhel-[sup]1[/sup] in Appendix I.
OTHER FORMS: flamma·bili·ty —NOUN
flamma·ble —NOUN

USAGE NOTE: Historically, flammable and inflammable mean the same thing. However, the presence of the prefix in– has misled many people into assuming that inflammable means “not flammable” or “noncombustible.” The prefix –in in inflammable is not, however, the Latin negative prefix –in, which is related to the English –un and appears in such words as indecent and inglorious. Rather, this –in is an intensive prefix derived from the Latin preposition in. This prefix also appears in the word enflame. But many people are not aware of this derivation, and for clarity's sake it is advisable to use only flammable to give warnings.


inflammable

SYLLABICATION: in·flam·ma·ble

PRONUNCIATION: ĭn-flăm'ə-bəl

ADJECTIVE: 1. Easily ignited and capable of burning rapidly; flammable. See Usage Note at flammable. 2. Quickly or easily aroused to strong emotion; excitable.

ETYMOLOGY: Middle English, liable to inflammation, from Medieval Latin īnflammābilis, from Latin īnflammāre, to inflame. See inflame.

OTHER FORMS: in·flamma·bili·ty —NOUN
in·flamma·ble —NOUN
in·flamma·bly —ADVERB


nonflammable

SYLLABICATION: non·flam·ma·ble

PRONUNCIATION: nŏn-flăm'ə-bəl

ADJECTIVE: Not flammable, especially not readily ignited and not rapidly burned.


The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by the Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.


From the Online Etymology Dictionary:

inflame
1340, "to set on fire with passion," fig. use of L. inflammare "to set on fire, kindle," from in- "in" + flammare "to flame," from flamma "flame" (see flame). Literal sense of "to cause to burn" first recorded in Eng. 1382. Inflammable "able to be set alight" is from 1605. Inflammatory "tending to rouse passions or anger" is from 1711. Inflammation "redness or swelling in a body part" is from 1533.
Regards//Larry

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Postby tcward » Fri Nov 11, 2005 2:47 am

Welcome, adama!

In addition to Stargzer's thorough response, I'd say probably either uninflammable or non-flammable will both work to describe something that is not flammable.

I'd use uninflammable also in the metaphorical sense, re: tempers, etc.

-Tim

edit: I see now that nonflammable is more correctly spelt without the hyphen, but I'm not sure I like it that way! ;)
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Postby gailr » Fri Nov 11, 2005 1:51 pm

adama: manufacturers cut through the whole flam-mess and use flame-retardant; flameproof also works, depending on context.
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Postby Andrew Dalby » Fri Nov 11, 2005 2:59 pm

Words like this can be 'false friends' across languages, too. French inhabité, if I'm not mistaken, doesn't mean inhabited. It means uninhabited.

I blame the French ...

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Postby Brazilian dude » Fri Nov 11, 2005 3:50 pm

I would blame the English: what's the in doing there since the word comes from Latin habitare? Cf. Portuguese/Spanish/Catalan habitar, Italian abitare, French habiter.

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Postby Andrew Dalby » Sat Nov 12, 2005 8:50 am

Yes, but the English always blame the French. It's handy to have someone to blame. I blame William the Conqueror's father
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Postby Brazilian dude » Sat Nov 12, 2005 10:25 am

Here again my Merriam-Webster's Concise Dictionary of English Usage:

flammable, inflammable These two words are synonymous. Flammable is a much newer word, apparently coined in 1813 to serve in a translation from Latin. In the 1920s it was adopted by the National Fire Protection Association in place of inflammable. Underwriters and others interested in fire safety followed suit. The reason given for its adoption was the possibility that the in- of inflammable might be misunderstood as a negative prefix. We do not know whether sucyh a misunderstanding has ever actually occurred. We do have occasional citations that show some uncertainty about the meaning of the words, so there seems to be some basis for the concern about misunderstanding.

The publicity campaign understaken to urge wider adoption of flammable put the word in the public eye on numerous occasions over the years. Eventually the ivory tower -- where nothing burns, apparently -- began to be heard bemoaning the loss of a fine literary word (inflammable) which was being shunted aside by a "corrupt" form. The combination of publicity and occasional outbreaks of lamentation have helped land the subject in many usage books.

Our files show that both forms continue to be used. Flammable is less common in British English than it is in American English. Flammable is used literally; figurative use belongs to inflammable:

The vision of a single young woman is said to have overcome the inflammable Monk - George Meredith, The Ordeal of Richard Fe3revel, 1859

But the inflammable and inflammatory materials were there to be ignited by critics of the scientific-military Establishment - Donald Fleming, Atlantic, September 1970

Nonflammable is the usual negative compound of flammable.

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Postby Flaminius » Sat Nov 12, 2005 10:46 am

The Elements of Style defines flammable as:

Flammable. An oddity, chiefly useful in saving lives. The common word meaning "combustible" is inflammable. But some people are thrown off by the in- and think inflammable means "not combustible." For this reason, trucks carrying gasoline or explosives are now marked FLAMMABLE. Unless you are operating such a truck and hence are concerned with the safety of children and illiterates, use inflammable.


And incinerate does not mean "not reducible to ashes."

Flam,
flamable im prezens of keales speach
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Postby tcward » Sat Nov 12, 2005 1:14 pm

With something as serious as fire, it doesn't seem very reasonable to harbor any disdain for a word that eliminates the opportunity for confusion, just because it does not contain the historical in-.

-Tim
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Postby Brazilian dude » Sat Nov 12, 2005 1:30 pm

What Tim just said is not to be sneezed at. Maybe hosed at would be more effective.

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Postby gailr » Sat Nov 12, 2005 7:22 pm

Funny, dude!
But I now wonder, was that an inflammatory or just a flammatory remark?

And Flam (Inflam?): would incinderate work for reducing to fine ash? (Crikey! 571 google hits for incinderate--this term could already be catching on!)
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Postby Flaminius » Sat Nov 12, 2005 11:10 pm

Gailrrrr, what a cute word.
Would it be too rambunctious to use incinderate in sense of putting young aspiring ladies into Cinderella's shoes? Literalists should be warned that I am not supporting incendiary body mutilation, though.
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Postby adama » Wed Nov 16, 2005 9:49 pm

thank you all for your responses

as i understand now
flammable- can be set on fire, used for literal purposes
inflammable- same, but also able to be angered, used in figurative language.

non flammable is correct

oh and english is confusing even to someone who speaks it as their first language
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Postby tcward » Thu Nov 17, 2005 12:01 am

adama wrote:oh and english is confusing even to someone who speaks it as their first language


Yes, exactly!

-Tim
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