Sir: I frequently watch a cable shopping channel where people call and speak to the hosts. The first time I heard a lady say "I have boughten many things from you," I just thought she was nervous and made a mistake. Since then I've heard many people use the world "boughten." I have four dictionaries and "boughten" is not in any of them. What gives?
- Linda P.
Answer: It's in mine. "Boughten" is Northern dialect meaning purchased rather than homemade, as in "boughten bread." One authority says the
"-en" probably has been added "by analogy with more common participial adjectives such as frozen."
If someone in the South shows you what she calls her "boughten dress," it's a fairly safe bet that she's originally from north of the Mason-Dixon Line. As Southerners we should be tolerant of such quaint speech by outlanders.
Sir: My airline ticket taker referred to her little ticket stand as her podium. The television newsman referred to his clutch of microphones standing in the street as his podium. Is this misuse the manner in which words change their meanings?
- Hans F.
Answer: That's one way you could look at it, I suppose. Approximate meanings do tend to become real meanings in time. But after all, that makes the language more flexible in the long run. Please read on.
Sir: To capitulate means to surrender. But to capitulate again, or recapitulate, means merely to summarize. How does it lose so much forcefulness when you repeat the act? Or am I wrong?
Answer: Only in that you apparently expect the language to be consistent and make exact sense. Word meanings often develop over the centuries, and anyone who looks for consistency is in for a disappointment. I wish I could give you a more satisfying answer but, to recapitulate, that's just the way it is. You might as well capitulate.
EARNEST QUERY of the Week, from J. B.:
"A man speaking on radio said of a coming event, `We look real forward to it.' Does looking real forward indicate avidity, or only mild anticipation?"