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Aug 8, 2002
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False cognates

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The Anagram Times
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(im-PREG-nuh-buhl) Pronunciation RealAudio

adjective: Incapable of being taken by force; strong enough to withstand attack.

From Middle English, from Old French imprenable, from in- (not) + prenable, from pren-, from prendre (to seize) + -able.

Even though the word impregnable appears to be a cousin of impregnate, the two have separate ancestries or what linguists call etymologies. The latter word comes from praegnas (pregnant), ultimately from Indo-European root gen- (to give birth), the source of words such as generate, engine, indigenous, and germ.

P.S. I'll be appearing on the program "Weekday" on Seattle's NPR affiliate KUOW Radio 94.9 FM on Fri, Aug 9, 2002 during 9-10 AM. You're welcome to call in the show (206-543-KUOW) to talk about your favorite words or language gaffes, the joy of words, etc.

"So Home Depot is a lot like Wal-Mart. An impregnable giant. No one's ever going to catch 'em, right? Not so fast. Don't look now, Mr. Nardelli, but little brother Lowe's is coming up your tailpipe."
Andy Serwer; Lowe's Hits the Nail on the Head; Fortune (New York); Jun 24, 2002.

"The theory that the Highlanders were impregnable may be supportable, but the theory that the ACT Brumbies are a pushover at home owes much to woolly thinking."
Andy Capostagno; Rugby: Is it Deja Vu For Cats?; The Mail and Guardian (Johannesburg, South Africa); Mar 19, 1999.


Nature is trying very hard to make us succeed, but nature does not depend on us. We are not the only experiment. -R. Buckminster Fuller, engineer, designer, and architect (1895-1983)

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