3

Computer games are extremely attractive to teenagers so they play them irresistibly day and night.

Are the two words "irresistibly" and "overwhelmingly" interchangeable in this sentence?

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In this context, neither word is correct. Clearly the sense intended is that teenagers are unable to resist playing computer games day and night, or they are overwhelmed by the urge to play.

Adverbial irresistibly means in an irresistible manner. For example:

He seduced me irresistibly.
means He seduced me in a way I was unable to resist,
it does not mean He was unable to resist seducing me.

By the same token, adverbial overwhelmingly could in principle be used to mean in an overwhelming manner, but that wouldn't fit OP's context for the same reason as above. In practice overwhelmingly is rarely used with that sense; it's almost exclusively restricted to the metaphoric figurative usage where it means by far the greater part, oir almost all. Thus:

My superiors in this company are overwhelmingly male.
means My superiors are almost all men,
it certainly doesn't mean they're overwhelmed by "the urge to be men" (whatever that would mean!),
nor does it mean My superiors treat me in an overwhelming manner.


The normal way to express what OP wants to say is:

Computer games are extremely attractive to teenagers, so they play them compulsively day & night.

You do something compulsively when you're compelled to; you can't resist or you're overwhelmed by the urge to do it. But note it's only used of things you're compelled to do by your own inner motivations - normally only in contexts where those motivations are excessive or abnormal in some way. For example:

She cleans my house compulsively.
does not mean she is compelled by me (or anyone else) to do the cleaning,
it means she has an [abnormal] uncontrollable urge to clean my house [thoroughly and frequently].

  • +1 Yep, "compulsively" seems a much better word here. – user264 Feb 14 '13 at 23:32
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No, they're not interchangeable in your sentence. Irresistibly means that they cannot prevent themselves from playing the games day and night, but overwhelmingly means extremely, which cannot meaningfully replace irresistibly in this sentence.

Consider: PC gamers are overwhelmingly male and PC gamers are irresistibly male. The first sentence is meaningful: >70% of PC gamers are male. The second sentence is nonsense.

If you replace irresistibly with overwhelmingly in your sentence, the sentence becomes nonsense.

  • 2
    Bill, I don't think that "irresistibly" is used correctly in OP. Unless you are describing the effect an action has on others (turning them on or attracting them in some other way), you can't DO something irresistibly, can you? "Computer games are irresistible" is fine, but the adverb form (adverb of manner) modifying an action verb does not make sense to me. You can BE irresistibly something, of course; "She was irresistibly beautiful." Do you agree, or have I missed something? Curious to hear what you and others have to say about this. – Shawn Mooney Feb 14 '13 at 10:26
  • By the way, did I use "OP" correctly? Does it mean Original Post or Original Poster, or can it mean both? – Shawn Mooney Feb 14 '13 at 10:55
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    @ShawnMooney OP can mean Original Poster, or Original Post. – kiamlaluno Feb 14 '13 at 11:07
  • @ShawnMooney: Perhaps you're right about that. Perhaps the word should be "unresistingly" ("without resistance"). There seems to be a similar usage by Robert Frost, however: "Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired." And the word has myriad appropriate synonyms. But I wouldn't object to a rewrite. Thank you for pointing this out. :-) – user264 Feb 14 '13 at 11:32
  • @kiamlaluno, sorry for this basic newbie question, but how did you italicize those words in your comment? I can easily see how to do it in an ANSWER, but have yet to figure out how to do it in a COMMENT. – Shawn Mooney Feb 14 '13 at 11:39

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