There are words ‘normal’ people use and then there are words ‘normal’ people don’t use. The latter are generally employed by scientists, professionals and insecure people with too may letters after their name who choose to use language as a form of primitive battery rather than the form of communication it’s supposed to be.
Of course, like any dichotomy, this one is flawed, there is obviously spectrum and then there’s context, but on the whole, you know, we only regularly use some few thousands of the million or so words English has to offer.
In these hazy areas, lingering close to words that are just plainly wrong, like sanguine, are words that people sometimes use thinking they know what they mean, only to discover some time later that they had it slightly wrong.
Not totally wrong, like thinking dearth means alot of instead of ‘lack of’ or the justifiable confusion surrounding flammable and inflammable which oddly both mean ‘likely to catch fire’. On this briefly, unflammable is out and so are left with flame resistant which, when you think about it, is about as useful as water resistant weather gear.
Back to the subject: ambivalent. Alot of people think this word means ‘don’t care either way’ and it kinda has that vibe to it, so I can see why people go there, I did. Things are not made any easier by the common explanation of ‘sitting on the fence’. I guess we here in Australia consider fence sitting to be something of crime and so ascribe this flippy, floppy, half-arsed kind of aura to anyone who dares not to see things in black and white. Because you are either with us or against us. There is no possibility that you might not be either doesn’t often seems to occur
What alot of people don’t consider as that someone might actually be sitting on that fence for entirely different reasons. They might actually ‘care very strongly both ways’, which as you might just now be guessing, is what ambivalent means. Just goes to show you, you know, books and covers etc.
Having said this, i never really was that passionate about it, I suppose I was unbivalent or something, but last night heard it uttered in the phrase ‘I am deeply ambivalent’ and it struck me.
That flappy, care free, wind in the willows kind of vibe is all a charade, a sham, a diversion. Beneath the surface when it rolls it around your brain it sticks like treacle.