People often ask why "flammable" and "inflammable" mean the same thing. The English words come from separate Latin words: _inflammare_ and the rarer _flammare_, which both meant "to set on fire". Latin had two prefixes _in-_, one of which meant "not"; the other, meaning "in", "into", or "upon", was the one used in _inflammare_. "Inflammable" dates in English from 1605. "Flammable" is first attested in an 1813 translation from Latin It was rare until the 1920s when the U.S. National Fire Protection Association adopted "flammable" because of concern that the "in-" in "inflammable" might be misconstrued as a negative prefix. Underwriters and others interested in fire safety followed suit. Benjamin Whorf (1897-1941), the linguist who shares credit for the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis that language shapes thought, may have been influential in promoting this change. Merriam-Webster Editorial Department writes: "Though we have been unable to confirm that Benjamin Whorf was responsible for the word's adoption, the theory seems plausible enough: he was, in fact, employed by the Hartford Fire Insurance Company from 1918 to 1940, and was widely recognized for his work in fire prevention." "Flammable" is still commoner in the U.S. than in the U.K.; in figurative uses, "inflammable" prevails (e.g., "inflammable temper"). Other words where an apparently negative prefix has little effect on the meaning are: "to (dis)annul", "to (de)bone", "to (un)bare", "to (un)loose", and "to (un)ravel". "Irregardless" (which probably arose as a blend of "irrespective" and "regardless"; it was first recorded in western Indiana in 1912), means the same as "regardless", but is not considered acceptable.
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