Someone I work with, who is perhaps an even bigger language geek than I am, suggests that ‘deceptively’ is a confusing word to use because it can easily be construed as having either of two contradictory meanings. For instance:
The pool was deceptively deep
Could be taken to mean either of the following:
(1) The pool was deeper than it looked – i.e., its real depth deceived onlookers
(2) The pool looked deeper than it was – i.e., its ‘depth’ was just a deception
Now, I’m immediately sure which of these two is right, and I don’t think it’s that ambiguous. But if there’s one thing life has taught me, it’s that I have no idea how other people think.
Which – don’t look anything up – of (1) and (2) would you understand it to mean? How confident are you?