Monday, June 27, 2005

Now Taking Requests!

I've never done this before! But it's important to test the borders of your mind...do new things! Try it!

I get emails all the time, asking for definitions, or clarification. Until now, I've opted to stick to form and have had to kindly decline. But as I reach more people, I can't turn a blind eye to other word-lovers!

I recently was sent this email:

Last night my lovely lifemate, in describing her friend Emily and her attitude towards entering a relationship, used the word "precautious."

I am familiar with "cautious" and "precaution." I am also familiar with "precocious."

However, "precautious" was a new one to me. In times past, I might have asked the definition then and there and thus subjected myself to giggles and ridicule ("he doesn't know what precautious means!").

No more.

Thanks to Mr Word, I know have a handy and personable research tool. Please Mister Word, tell me the meaning and etymology of "precautious."


Well, first off, you may be tempted to think that this word isn't a real word. It sounds like a clever combination - a fanciful creation intended to evoke the adorable boldness of a kitten stalking a pit bull. And if it were, I would undoubtedly tell you that cleverness does not equate to correctness.

As lovers of words, we have to bear the responsibility of preserving the fidelity of our language. The brash creation of faux-words is a dangerous and slippery path that leads almost inevitably towards confusion and chaos.

Happily, I can tell you that your lovely lifemate was using a very real word, and in a quite correct manner. Precautiousness is simply a tendency towards prudence.

While it is true that "precautious" is a semi-homophone (homophones are words that sound the same phonetically, but have different meanings: See/Sea), the fact is, it has nothing to do with the word "precocious".

Congratulate your significant other for having a fine and diverse vocabulary!

OK!

3 Comments:

Blogger Mojo said...

so precautious is to cautious as illuminate is to luminate?

4:22 PM  
Blogger Agent Em said...

This analogy is flawed. A better example would be: Precautious is to cautious as parboil is to boil.

I think precautious is most understandable as the adjective of precaution. Someone who takes precautions is precautious.

Illuminate is an interesting word though, because it can mean either to turn on a light or to add beautiful decorations to a printed page. Mr. Word, maybe you could enlighten us on that one some day.

1:09 PM  
Blogger . said...

1. Hysteresis
2. Innominate
3. Altruism

Those are my three requests. You have a very sharp blog.

1:00 PM  

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