This morning I heard an educated woman -- the director of a charity which aids the poor and down-trodden of the Third World -- talking on public radio about war crimes allegedly committed in Somalia. (The alleged criminals were Americans of course, not the Islamic terrorist group al-Shabaab. Hey, it was public radio!)
The speaker called for a "fulsome investigation" of the "deliberate starvation" of Somalis by the wicked Americans, through restrictions on food aid which otherwise would have prevented the "famine".
A "fulsome investigation"... Really? I'm guessing the speaker really wants a full, complete, thorough investigation, but, in spite of her higher learning, misunderstands the meaning of the adjective "fulsome". Walt's Annadale's dictionary says "fulsome" means "cloying, surfeiting, offensive from excess of praise, gross (flattery, compliments), nauseous, disgusting".
The misuse of "fulsome" has become something of an epidemic amongst the lamestream media and chattering classes. I am sick, sore and tired of hearing news "reporters" promising "more fulsome coverage at 11", and politicians promising to give an issue their "fulsome attention".
This abuse of vocabulary stems, no doubt, from a wish to sound better-educated than the speakers really are. To "big themselves up", as speakers of Ebonics say, the professional talkers reach for the sesquipedelian word, when a plain, simple word would do. To those who are tempted so to do, Walt recommends two books: 30 Day to a More Powerful Vocabulary, by Wilfred Funk (yes, that Funk, as in "Funk & Wagnalls") and Norman Lewis, and the seminal work by Dr. Rudolf Fleisch, The Art of Plain Talk.
If you are a professional talker, and intend to go on misusing "fulsome" because it sounds good, I say, go right ahead and demonstrate your ignorance of proper English. And spare me your fulsome apologies.