In the latest episode of her wonderful grammar series, the very amusing Mary Norris aka “The Comma Queen” of The New Yorker consulted a very old volume of Fowler’s Modern English Usage in order to understand the the true meaning of the word “massive” after hearing the word being used colloquially during a trip to Australia.
‘Massive in its figurative sense is a useful and expressive word that deserves to be treated with respect and discrimination. The virtue is being taken out of it now that it’s a vogue word.’ Remember, we’re talking about someone who was writing in the 1920s. So this is where it came from, Fowler. It’s a lot like the current use of awesome. Awesome has lost a lot of its meaning since people use it all the time.