As I have just completed a review of a newly drafted SOP, I have just added several new words to the category faux-ami in my lexicon. Not the least of these words is important.

Mocked skillfully by Eric Frank Russell in his 1951 short story And Then There Were None, this is a word whose usage frequently annoys me, since in English it is so poweful when used right, and so empty when used wrong.

Critically, the word has not literal denotation in English. It is a faux ami, because in French it does.

"La contribution la plus importante etait celle de Eric." means, precisely:

"Eric did most of the work."

However, mistranslate this as:

"Eric made the most important contribution." and you could easily understand that Eric's contribution was the most significant or influential, but the statement by no means implies that it was the biggest.

This is, besides being a typical mis-translation of the contrete French word for the figurative English one, an excellent example of a misuse of "important" in English. In the above case, its use disguises the details; consider replacing it with:

"Without Eric's contribution, we could not have finished the job."

We seldom have opportunities to make proper use of "important" in English, however here is an example:

"Eric's backing is the most important." This tells us that when seeking support in our enterprise, our first priority must be to get support from Eric. While it is still a little vague, "important" is actually adding to the meaning of the sentence. Take care, however, not to say:

"It is most important to get Eric's backing." as here you will have disguised the importance of Eric's support by confounding it with the act of getting the support. As a general rule, follow EF Russell's example and don't use the damn word at all:

"If we get Eric's backing, everyone else will soon follow."

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