“‘Inflammable’ means ‘flammable!?’ What a country!”

This is something that hopefully you’re already aware of. If not, let me perform a public service by informing you of the following:

Flammable and inflammable both mean the same thing. And just to make it absolutely clear, something described as flammable/inflammable can burn easily. This has long been held up as an example of the confusing nature of English, but it’s also particularly noteworthy in that it could have a serious practical effect on someone’s life. How easily might someone assume that something inflammable is safe to use around fire, and end up setting it alight? Why then, when the word is so obviously confusing, do we have it at all? Or, why does it not mean can’t be set alight? Continue reading