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Dec 29, 2014
This week’s theme
New words (relatively speaking)

This week’s words
prebuttal
captcha
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anthropocene

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

Lexicographer Ernest Weekley once said, “Stability in language is synonymous with rigor mortis.” The only languages that do not change are dead languages, such as Latin and Sanskrit. Before I get angry email from Latin or Sanskrit lovers, let me clarify. Both are fine languages, but from a linguistic point of view a language is considered dead if it’s no longer in day-to-day use.

Living languages continue churning, adding new ones to their word stock, changing meanings (see decimate, for example), and even discarding words.

As we start the new year, this week we’ll see a few new words, relatively speaking. Again, from a lexicographer’s point of view, a new word is not necessarily one that has been coined recently. A word may have been coined many decades ago, but it takes a while for it to bubble up and become mainstream.

prebuttal

PRONUNCIATION:
(pri-BUH-tl)

MEANING:
noun: An argument in anticipation of a criticism; a preemptive rebuttal.

ETYMOLOGY:
A blend of pre- + rebuttal, from rebut (to refute), from Old French rebouter (to push back), from boute (to push). Ultimately from the Indo-European root bhau- (to strike), which also gave us refute, beat, button, halibut, and buttress. Earliest documented use: 1996.

USAGE:
“But in a prebuttal to the first lady’s visit in Coralville on Monday, Iowa Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds said the Obama administration’s decisions have hurt women.”
James Q. Lynch; First lady: Progress of Last Four Years is at Stake; The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa); Oct 30, 2012.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
The love of one's country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border. -Pablo Casals, cellist, conductor, and composer (1876-1973)

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