Interested always, disinterested often, but uninterested never

New York Times logo, via the NYT siteWilliam Safire (NYT bio | wikipedia), a New York Times Magazine columnist on language, has the following vignette in today’s column (sub no longer req’d!):

A Pet Named Peeve

Two cheerful dogs grace our household, but in my imagination we also have a dog named Peeve. He is perpetually grumpy; complains about his dog food, collar is too tight, bed lumpy, not getting enough exercise, all that. What especially gets his hackles to rise is human language he doesn’t understand.

Disinterested puts him off. When he turns his nose up at a bowl of dry kibble and I say, “Whatsamatter, disinterested in eating?” this erudite Portuguese water dog emits a low growl. He and I know that word means “objective, fair, without a partisan slant or pecuniary involvement.” But it is used by writers who mean “uninterested” and allowed to stand, reeking of misuse, undermining clarity, by editors who could (not) care less. I can’t tell you what my pet, Peeve, scornfully does on a newspaper that treats the language with such unrespect.

Exactly!

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