Thursday, April 12, 2018

Using The Right Word - Burgeoning

Often students would write their graduate papers using words they would never say, and which, quite often, they used incorrectly.  When I'd ask, they'd tell me they found a word in the thesaurus, that this was grad school and they wanted to sound more academic.  Did you look the word up?  No, it was in the thesaurus so it was a synonym.

Well, usually synonyms have a related meaning, but they don't all mean exactly the same thing.  So when I read this sentence in the paper this morning about the Alaska railroad, my antennae began to twitch.
"The stronger 2017 revenue figures were driven by continued growth in the railroad's passenger service — largely attributable to Alaska's burgeoning tourism industry." (emphasis added)
Burgeoning?  Alaska's tourism industry is 'burgeoning'?  It's been strong and growing since I moved here over 40 years ago.  So, just to check whether my own internal dictionary is accurate, I looked up the word at
"verb (used without object)
1. to grow or develop quickly; flourish:
The town burgeoned into a city. He burgeoned into a fine actor.
2. to begin to grow, as a bud; put forth buds, shoots, etc., as a plant (often followed by out, forth)."
It's the quickly part that rings false here.  There's no real transition from one thing into another as in the first example.  Here are the stats from a study I found at the Alaska Travel Industry Association website:

This long term slow growth isn't exactly the way I understand the word 'burgeoning.'

Take Home:  If you use a thesaurus to find a different word to use, be sure to look it up in the dictionary before you actually use.  Most synonyms are exact substitutes for each other.

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