Thank you, Chris Huhne, for reclaiming the word ‘fulsome’

by Stephen Tall on October 15, 2011

I’ve just blogged about Chris Huhne’s speech to the Royal Society on nuclear power… and jolly good it was too. Especially for what may be one of the first deliberately accurate yet ironic uses of the word ‘fulsome’ I’ve seen in a long while.

Fulsome‘ is one of my pet peeves. It’s increasingly used in a positive sense — praise is often said to be ‘fulsome’ — yet the word itself is negative: ‘fulsome praise’ is excessive, overdone, insincere.

So has Chris used it? Here’s the money-shot from his speech:

Such is the extraordinary inventiveness of the British scientific community – to which I pay fulsome tribute here – that all eleven Magnox power stations were built to different specifications. Even their fuel elements were different sizes.

‘Fulsome tribute’, eh… I can’t help feeling Chris may have been using the word correctly here. Insincerely.