As I walked down the street past a newspaper box, I saw the headline of the Epoch Times: "Disinterested Voters a Trial for Democracy." And I thought, disinterested voters might be a trial for political parties, but they'd do wonders for democracy. They might actually pay attention to issues!
I hadn't remembered which newspaper it was, so I Googled the headline. Not surprisingly, the headline in the online edition now reads "Uninterested Voters." Who truly are a trial for democracy.
I realize that languages change and evolve, and English more than most. English is incredibly dynamic, adding new words constantly. Meanings shift over time. What bugs me, though, is when a meaning is lost due to ignorance.
Disinterested is a very handy word! If someone does not have an interest or stake in some matter, then that person is more likely to be impartial or unbiased than someone with an interest. Even though "impartial" and "unbiased" probably count as synonyms for disinterested in a thesaurus, I'm not sure that they all mean exactly the same thing. That's the beauty of English. You can express different shades of meaning using different words that mean more or less the same.
Alas, disinterested is now very often used to mean "uninterested," as in "totally not interested" rather than "lacking a personal interest and therefore impartial." It's funny that the Epoch Times changed the online headline. Either someone at the newspaper realized the error, or one or more pedants like me contacted them. The original headline was unintentionally funny—if you get the joke.
I've been thinking of doing some word blogs. I have to do something with that dusty old English degree, right?