Flammable vs. Inflammable (Trust me, you want to know this)

Don't you mean, inflammable?!For those of you who follow me regularly–yes, I got an A on that paper. For those of you who don’t read me regularly, just be comforted in the fact that you’re reading a blog by a good student. Anyway, back on track. You ever see a pair of kids pajamas that says “Inflammable?” Well–if you knew the real meaning of inflammable, you would be greatly concerned. Keep reading to find out why!

Wait…THAT’S what inflammable means?!

So back in “ye olden days,” inflammable actually meant something that was highly explosive or could catch fire very easily. Think about it–that’s why we still have words like “inflamed,” because the root word was inflammable. However, over time there was concern that there could be confusion over the prefix in-, which normally negates things, and that people would think items that were likely to catch fire WEREN’T likely to catch fire.

Because of this, rumor has it that the National Fire Protection Association began using flammable as a replacement for inflammable to eliminate confusion. However, there’s a new problem introduced by doing that–they both mean the same thing!

So now what do I do?

Although flammable means the same thing as inflammable technically, most people have assumed that inflammable means flame-resistant. As such, for general usage you may want to use the words in that way–but for academic writing you might want to think about using the traditional usage of inflammable. Good luck!

Posted in Grammar Quick Fix.