If A Word Is Ambiguous, Look It Up

“Albright is remembered as one of Yellowstone’s great figures, a beloved and heroic administrator, but in fact his legacy is ambivalent.” 


-from Yellowstone by David Quammen, National Geographic, 2016


David and I both make mistakes such as this one. We all do. I like David’s work. But in this case, he means “ambiguous” or some similar word. “Ambivalent” is a word coined by Freud to describe a state of mind of one or another of his patients toward someone or something else. A person can be ambivalent. A legacy cannot. So you could say, “I was ambivalent about going to my mother’s birthday party because I love her but she also drives me crazy.” Or you could say, “When I told my mother I was coming to visit, her response was pretty ambiguous. I didn’t know if she was pleased or not.”