Word of the Day

Sunday, February 10, 2019

prebuttal

[ pri-buht-l, pree- ]

noun

an argument constructed in anticipation of a criticism: The alderman began his speech with a question-answer style prebuttal.

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What is the origin of prebuttal?

Prebuttal is a clever combination of the prefix pre- “before” and (re)buttal. It is equivalent to the Latin rhetorical term prolēpsis “anticipation in the form of a brief summary” or Late Latin procatalēpsis “anticipation and rebuttal of an opponent’s arguments,” a borrowing from Greek prolēpsis “(in rhetoric) anticipation” and prokatálēpsis “anticipation and rebuttal of an opponent’s arguments.” Former Vice President Al Gore seems to be the first person to use prebuttal in 1996.

how is prebuttal used?

President Clinton’s White House and campaign team have been drawing favorable reviews for their rapid response operation and penchant for picking off issues before Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) even gets his TelePrompTer warmed up. Vice President Gore calls it “prebuttal.”

Dan Balz, Washington Post, May 26, 1996

Both in the short term and for posterity, Sotomayor’s work will serve as a prebuttal to what Chief Justice John Roberts and company are poised to do.

Andrew Cohen, "Sonia Sotomayor and the Real Lessons of Affirmative Action," Atlantic, January 11, 2013
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Saturday, February 09, 2019

inculpate

[ in-kuhl-peyt, in-kuhl-peyt ]

verb

to involve in a charge; incriminate.

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What is the origin of inculpate?

Inculpate, like inflammable, is capable of two opposite meanings depending on whether you take in- to be a negative prefix (from the same Proto-Indo-European source as English un-) or an intensive prefix. If in- is the negative prefix, then inculpate means “unblamed, blameless,” the only meaning of the Latin inculpātus and a meaning that inculpate had in (and only in) 17th-century English. Likewise inflammable would mean “not flammable,” a very common mistake in modern English. The in- in inculpate and inflammable is in fact the intensive in-; Late Latin inculpāre means “to blame”; inflammāre means “to set on fire.” The Romans, too, were confused by the two different prefixes: inaudīre (in- here the intensive prefix) means “to catch the sound of, get wind of, hear”; its past participle inaudītus (in- here the negative prefix) means “unheard, unheard of, not listened to.” Inculpate in the sense “to blame” entered English in the late 18th century.

how is inculpate used?

Then someone came into your room and placed the pistol there in order to inculpate you.

Arthur Conan Doyle, "The Problem of Thor Bridge," The Strand Magazine, Volume 63, 1922

Their job was simply to get as much information as possible, which, along with corroborating evidence, would either inculpate the suspect or set him free.

Douglas Starr, "The Interview," The New Yorker, December 9, 2013
Friday, February 08, 2019

roborant

[ rob-er-uhnt ]

adjective

strengthening.

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What is the origin of roborant?

Roborant comes from Latin rōborant- (the stem of rōborāns), present participle of rōborāre “to strengthen, invigorate,” a derivative of the noun rōbor (stem rōbur-) “oak, oak tree.” From rōborāre Latin forms corrōborāre “to strengthen, harden” (English corroborate). Latin also has an archaic form rōbus for rōbur, and the archaic form clearly shows the source of Latin rōbustus “strong, powerful” (English robust). The Latin noun rōbus is akin to the adjective rōbus “red” and dialectal rūfus “light red, fox red” (English rufous), the noun rōbīgō (also rūbīgō), stem rōbīgin- (rūbīgin-) “rust,” and its derivative adjective rōbīginōsus “rusty” (English rubiginous). Roborant entered English in the 17th century.

how is roborant used?

… they put him to bed in the rest room, where the doctor gave him a roborant injection.

Thomas Glavinic, Carl Haffner's Love of the Draw, translated by John Brownjohn, 1999

The label, designed for the English speaking market, gives this description of its virtues: “Nutritious and roborant: promoting the brain and recovering the memory: strengthening the organs and systems of generations.”

Jack Anderson, "Fat Cats Show They Care," Daytona Beach Morning Journal, Saturday October 7, 1972

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