Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a moderately obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar — another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. This week's word:
You do not have to be bewitched to be bothered and bewildered, and being bewildered is such a familiar state to us that English has a number of words for us. We can be bewildered or perplexed or baffled or confused or stumped or rattled or distracted or confounded or flustered. (Everybody OK?) Add to the lot nonplussed.
To be nonplussed is to be bewildered or baffled, at a loss, at a standstill, unable to proceed further. To nonplus is to perplex or bring to a standstill. It's a direct steal from the Latin non plus, "not more" or "no further."
And now we add to the confusion, because is recent years nonplussed has come on to take on an opposite meaning, particularly in American English: "unfazed," "unperturbed," or "unimpressed," rather than "disconcerted." Now, this is America, English is a most democratic language, and you have every freedom to speak and write as you like. But if you are going to use nonplussed, you have an obligation to make clear in context which of these opposite senses you intend.
Otherwise, you now know what word to use for where you'll leave your reader.
Example: From Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding: “I looked at him nonplussed. I realized that I have spent so many years being on a diet that the idea that you might actually need calories to survive has been completely wiped out of my consciousness. Have reached point where believe nutritional idea is to eat nothing at all, and that the only reason people eat is because they are so greedy they cannot stop themselves from breaking out and ruining their diets.”