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The problem with confidence

Thing I hate about English #2: The word confidence. It’s just a mess of a word.

You can feel confidence. It’s that glow you get after taking a risk and guessing right. It’s having cash in the bank. It’s having the nerve to flirt with someone more attractive than yourself. It’s courage from knowing that you’re the best person to take control of the situation. It’s being so sure that you’re willing to go down fighting. Sometimes it’s just being drunk.

You can also keep information in confidence. Someone has sized you up and determined you won’t go spreading secrets around town. You’re no Jullian Assange. They’ve confided in you to keep something confidential.

Also, if you rob someone through deception, you might be a confidence man. And if you disagree with an elected leader, you might call for a vote of no confidence. If you’re wondering how the economy is doing, you might look for data on consumer confidence.

All of these meanings are so colorful that they deserve their own words. Yet English has one plain-sounding word—confidence—carrying the weight of all this information.

There’s no gramatical reason to avoid the word confidence, but can we do better? I’m confident we can.

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Complaints, Language

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