Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: turbid; turgid; turpid; torpid.

turbid; turgid; turpid; torpid. “Turbid” = (of water) muddy, thick; (fig.) disordered. “Turgid” = swollen, distended, bloated, as with fluid — and by extension, it means “pompous.” “Turpid” is a rare word meaning “filthy, worthless”; it’s related to the word “turpitude” (= baseness, depravity). “Torpid” = dormant, sluggish, apathetic. “Turbid” is sometimes erroneously displaced by “turgid” — e.g.: o “Onto these turgid [read ‘turbid’] waters Logan hopes to pour the oil of dispassionate science.” James Ricci, “Life and Death Study,” L.A. Times, 28 Apr. 2002, Mag. §, at 5. o “Frazier serendipitously discovers (as I did as a boy, 60 years before) a stream in Montclair, N.J., called the Third River, which winds its tired way through suburban strip malls, mill towns, industrial wastelands, Environmental Protection Agency Superfund sites and turgid [read ‘turbid’] swamps to the Passaic River, Newark Bay and eventually the Atlantic Ocean.” E. William Smethurst Jr., “Ian Frazier’s Perfect Book on Fishing Is Quite a Catch,” Chicago Trib., 19 May 2002, Books §, at 4. “Turbid” has two corresponding nouns: “turbidity” and “turbidness.” Although the Oxford English Dictionary gives preference to “turbidness,” the form “turbidity” appears hundreds of times as often in print sources, perhaps because of its resemblance to “morbidity” — e.g.: o “The fish were stressed in recent weeks by increases in water temperature and turbidity, he said.” “State Kills 3,500 Trout After Disease Spreads,” Baltimore Sun, 18 Aug. 1995, at C12. o “Reducing turbidity, or water disturbance, makes more oxygen available for fish and other water life.” Chris Kelley, “Local Firm, National Leader Team Up on Dredging Plan,” Dallas Morning News, 11 July 1997, at A1. Language-Change Index — “turgid” misused for “turbid”: Stage 1. For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “The words in prose ought to express the intended meaning, and no more; if they attract attention to themselves, it is, in general, a fault.” S.T. Coleridge, Table Talk (as quoted in The Writer on His Art 96 (Walter Allen ed., 1949)).  
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