There may be some passing intimacy between those who think momentarily means in a moment (airline captain over loudspeaker: "We'll be taking off momentarily, folks") and those who know it means for a moment, but it won’t survive much strain.So it’s amusing to find the New York Times praising his book "The Great War and Modern Memory" by quoting a source -- a published, edited source -- that includes at least two usage problems.
"It is difficult to underestimate Fussell’s influence," Vincent B. Sherry wrote in "The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of the First World War." … "His claims for the meaning of the war are profound and far-reaching; indeed, some have found them hyperbolic. Yet, whether in spite of or because of the enormity of his assertions, Fussell has set the agenda for most of the criticism that has followed him."First there’s “underestimate” used for "overestimate" – a common enough confusion, but one that Fussell (so far as Google Books can tell) never fell into. Then there’s the use of "enormity" to mean hugeness instead of awfulness -- no longer a sin in the eyes of most Americans,** but a usage that Fussell mocked in “Class” as ignorant pretension:
Class unfortunates who want to emphasize the largeness of something are frequently betrayed by enormity, as in "The whale was of such an enormity that they could hardly get it in the tank." (Prole version: "The whale was so big they couldn’t hardly get it in the tank.") Elegance is the fatal temptation of the middle class.I suppose it’s possible that Bruce Weber, who wrote the obit, deliberately chose the Cambridge Companion's encomium so as to administer a posthumous tweak to his subject. If so, I salute him. If not, it’s still a delicious bit of cosmic payback.
* Yes, some of the book is (intentionally) funny; but the language commentary is mostly wild speculation and hostile declamation.
** In Garner’s Modern American Usage, enormity used (or “misused”) for "immensity" is rated 4 out of 5 on Garner’s language-change index: “Ubiquitous but …”. That is, everyone’s doing it, but a resistant minority still holds its (dwindling) ground.