Mark Bult Design: San Francisco, CA, Established 1988

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Sunday, June 27, 2004

To "buff" or not too "buffed"

Just because "everybody says it this way" doesn't mean it's actually correct.

Bubble-burster: When you go to and look stuff up, you must surely realize that's definitions are not a single authoritative source. is in fact a compendium of numerous definitions from various online sources, 11 at last count.

Which is why you can go to 11 (or two) different sites (or maybe pick up a real dictionary fercryinoutloud!) and get seemingly endless different (and even conflicting) definitions, pronunciation keys, usages, and origins.

Example: When you look up "buffed" at Merriam-Webster, it gives you both "buff" (verb/adj.) -- thinking you misspelled it -- and also the actual word you looked up, "buffed" (adj.):

Main Entry: buff
Function: adjective
1 : of the color buff
2 or buffed : having a physique enhanced by bodybuilding exercises

Again, just because everyone thinks "buff" and "buffed" are the same doesn't make it correct. Being one of the few in the know, I prefer to smugly (very smugly, I admit) but firmly believe that original usage, definition, and pronunciation outweighs what has become fashionable, popular, or simply pervasive.

Buying SUVs, chopping down 2,000-year-old trees to make fences, and invading 3rd world countries just because one has the military force to do so are all considered "acceptable usage" -- in fact these are the overwhelmingly popular "acceptable" uses, according to the vast majority of the population. But just because 98% of the population accepts them doesn't make it correct (or right) to me.

I realize my smug assertion that I'm right and you're all wrong makes me an elitist prick. I'm okay with that. I strive each day to be better and smarter than I was yesterday; this is my moral responsibility. Indeed it's the moral responsibility of all individuals.

And, in a way, you're all correct in your assertion that I'm wrong. Because if it's acceptable to you that "everyone else says it this way, so I will too, in spite of evidence that says I might've been saying it wrong all these years and just following the example of everyone else who was also saying it wrong," then you're correct too. You've got 98% of the population on your side. Go for it.


Blogger ynnej said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

6/27/2004 03:21:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stop oppressing me! Why should I let some cabal of crusty old white men churning out dictionaries in their ivory towers tell me what words mean?

Aside from which, the Merriam-Webster definition seems to imply that either buff or buffed means toned. At least that's how I choose to read it. Prove me wrong.

And when I looked up buff/buffed in my actual dead-tree edition American Heritage Dictionary, 3rd Edition, there was no reference to the "toned" meaning. Which leads me to believe that the use of buff/buffed to describe a physique can be classified as slang. And in the case of slang, common usage is all that matters.

Finally, if you're such a firm believer in matching the original usage of language, shouldn't you be replacing your s's with f's in all your printed matter? I mean if not reverting to cuneiform.

6/27/2004 06:11:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

And another thing...

I'd like to point out that through all of this discussion there has been absolutely ZERO support advanced for your original contention that buffed meant strong.

6/27/2004 06:16:00 PM

Blogger espd said...

On "strong" vs. "toned"Perhaps when I said simply "strong," you assumed I did not mean toned?

Buffed means a person with an evidently well-muscled physique. This person is necessarily strong.

i.e. "Damn, Will sure is buffed."

6/28/2004 12:50:00 PM

Blogger espd said...

On "...if you're such a firm believer in matching the original usage of language, shouldn't you be replacing your s's with f's in all your printed matter?":Resorting to simply ridiculous examples for your argument is beaneath you. C'mon, you can think of a better one than that! How about:

"...shouldn't you stop saying 'Band-Aid' and 'Scotch Tape' -- since those are proper nouns and trademarks, not generic nouns -- and say 'adhesive bandage' and 'cellophane tape'?"

The answer is yes.

But I'll continue to say "he's buffed" when I refer to Governor Arnold. Unless I happen to be looking at him in those old nudie photos he did back in the '70s, in which case I'll be saying "damn, I really wish I hadn't seen the governor in the buff."

6/28/2004 12:59:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This has dragged on far too long and since it's your blog, I'll give you the last word if you wish to respond to this, I'm through. Be as much of a language nazi as you want. Go ahead and draw the line between respecting historical use and being "ridiculous" wherever you wish.

But I believe that precision in language is important, much as you seem to value history. (I also like starting sentences with "but", even though some English teachers have told me not to.)

So I simply can't agree when you say buff(ed) means strong.

Going back to where this all started, I do not consider Charlize Theron to be strong, although she may be buff(ed). Brad Pitt is clearly more buff(ed) than me, but I very much doubt he is nearly as strong.

I don't think anyone would call Glenn Ross buff(ed), but he is very strong:

Any word on HW scheduling? I put a deposit on the place in Felton and am definitely moving some time in July, but I can be a little flexible on exactly when.

6/28/2004 02:07:00 PM


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