You wrote: "Two weeks after my return, I am still trying to process the enormity of my experience in Salvador, which was staggering on every level."
I understand that usage is subject to change, but I feel a duty to my old English teacher, Fr. McFadden, SJ, to use "enormity" with the traditional sense of "great wickedness or evil." I hope that you will agree that the standard definition of "enormity" is worth preserving. The president has been misusing that word for a while, and I fear that without the help of respected writers, it may soon be lost.
Well, I certainly got an earful from Salon readers about this one! I appreciate the grammar protests from everyone who wrote in. But I honestly have never accepted that sharp distinction in English. In French, one can use enormité in either sense, and it seems to me a very useful duality. I was certainly signaling that the carnival in Salvador had both a physical and a spiritual dimension; neither "immensity" nor "enormousness" (which other readers suggested) would have been quite right.
From the swaying top of Daniela Mercury's cruising trio elétrico, I was reminded of many things -- Wordsworth's sonnet about sleeping London at dawn as a "mighty heart" and Baudelaire's spooky poem about beauty as a goddess-like stone sphinx with bruising breasts. With apologies to irate English teachers everywhere, "enormity" with a French twist really nails it!