Misty Copeland’s Notoriety

Today’s word is notoriety.

I’m a fan of Misty Copeland, the first black ballerina to be promoted to principal dancer by the American Ballet Theatre. Last year I thought Misty was a marvelous judge for the So You Think You Can Dance TV show, and I enjoyed seeing her do the peasant pas de deux in a performance of Giselle that I saw in New York.

So I was very interested in A Ballerina’s Tale, a recent documentary about her life that was broadcast on PBS. But at one point I was puzzled: The documentary said that Misty had trouble dealing with the notoriety that followed a European tour.

Notoriety? The documentary didn’t mention anything scandalous.

And then I realized that the film makers were using notoriety as a synonym for “fame.” But the two words have very different definitions. Fame is positive; notoriety (related to the word “notorious”) is negative.

Here’s how you could use notoriety correctly in a sentence:

Donald Trump’s notoriety is causing anxiety for some Republican leaders.

If you want to use the word fame, you could write this sentence:

Donald Trump’s fame is helping him win Republican primaries.

It looks as if these two words are blending into one, and we are gradually losing a useful word from our language. I’m sorry that is coming.

Misty Copeland in Coppelia

                         Misty Copeland in Coppelia



Leave a Reply