PopVocab: The Credible Hulk

Jen Dziura —  April 24, 2012

This hilarious graphic has been making the rounds on Facebook:

The Credible Hulk! This, of course, is a play on the Incredible Hulk. But what does incredible really mean?

Today, we often use incredible to mean “amazing, awesome!” However, the actual meaning of incredible is not believable. For instance:

No one would have questioned the employee’s sick day if he hadn’t told such _________ story about an exotic illness that sent him to the hospital near-death at 8:30 a.m., and yet was cured completely by evening.

Select two answers.

an incredible a fabulous an incredulous a verisimilar a gullible a chintzy

(Note: When you see six answer choices and square checkboxes, that’s a clue that this is a GRE Sentence Equivalence problem, to which there will always be two correct answers.)

Of course, one of the answers to this question is incredible. But what about the other one?

It’s not incredulous, even though the two words share two roots.

The root “cred” (believe) occurs in many words, such as credit (when someone gives you a credit card, it’s because they believe you’ll pay them back), discredit, creed, and credo. However, incredible and incredulous are not the same.

Compare the following:

Credible – capable of being believed; believable

Incredible – so extraordinary as to seem impossible; not credible; hard to believe; unbelievable

Credulous – willing to believe or trust too readily, especially without proper or adequate evidence; gullible.

Incredulous – not credulous; disinclined or indisposed to believe; skeptical.

While incredible means not believable and thus refers to stories, testimony, etc., incredulous means skeptical and thus describes people or their attitudes.

The other answer to the question is fabulous, which doesn’t really mean “fierce, fashionable, amazing!” It actually means “almost impossible to believe; incredible.”

There’s a really good reason why fabulous means incrediblefabulous shares a root with fable. That is, fabulous means “coming from myths or fables, imaginary.”

Almost incredible, isn’t it?

Jen Dziura

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