Blow Up or Explode: Does it Matter?

March 16th, 2006

In my grammar explode is an intransative verb. I would never say “He exploded the dynamite.” or “She exploded the bridge.” I would say, “She blew up the bridge, or in other words, the bridge exploded.”

Only recently have I found that I am in the minority, although I think most people use blow up more often than explode in their everyday speech. I seem to hear explode used much more often now than I used to. I suppose it’s to avoid ambiguity. I still don’t like the transitive use of explode.

I think I’ve always had this bias, but I think it was strengthened considerably while I lived in Germany. in German explodieren is intransitive, and translates to mean explode in English. If you want a transitive verb, you would use sprengen which, not surprisingly, means blow up. More research needs to be done to determine if the English transitive usage of explode is new or old.

In any case, I don’t like it.

Update: Transitive usage of explode goes back at least 400 years according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

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