Friday, July 04, 2008

Word Attack!! - SUPPOSABLY

This word is one of the banes of my existence: Supposably. It's commonly used in lieu of Supposedly. It is a real word, but with quite an obscure definition: it means that something is CAPABLE OF being supposed, not what IS being supposed - which is how it's typically used. Here is more:

Supposed(ly): Something that is or has been supposed, a supposed fact, or true without personal knowledge.
Supposedly, he has a post-graduate education; he is an attorney, after all.

In other words, what is being supposed it the level of the attorney's education. The speaker may not have the attorney's transcripts to prove or disprove the attorney's education, but common knowledge indicates that higher education is required for attorneys, as well as bar exams, supposedly.

Supposable(y): Something that could be supposed.
Example: Supposably, my dog could fly to the moon.
In other words, it could be supposed that my dog can fly to the moon, but of course, that would be ridiculous.

As ridiculous as the use of supposABLY when speakers REALLY mean to say supposEDLY.


Anonymous said...

u r prally wright. you're dog cudn't never fly to the moon, supposably, cuz it takes air to fly and there don't no air in space and yore dog would half 2 traverse this space to fly froma earth totha moon.


Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with you on this one. If something is capable of being supposed then it is supposable. When you say "supposably, my dog could fly to the moon," it is no longer supposable, it has been supposed, thereby rendering the "accepted" use of supposably inapplicable.

Kristi Robison said...

nsbendel - thanks for the comment!!
I wish any "accepted" use of supposable to be inapplicable!

I have two thoughts - both a disagreement and an agreement on your singular point, if that's possible. (It must be, since I have them!)

First, yep - you're right about my dog flying to the moon no longer being "supposable", since it had already been supposed in the text of my sentence. After that point, it should transition to "supposedly".

However - the point at which I wrote the text, "supposably, my dog could fly to the moon", is correct in its usage, because that it its first instance of that sentiment. So, at that point, it would be supposable.

Further references to that thought should then use "supposedly," as you've indicated.

"On second thought, the idea that my dog could supposedly fly to the moon is ridiculous."

Thanks again for commenting!