Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Pedant, consede

Ah, 'tis a perilous business, to be a pedant. The urge to look very clever can so easily have you looking very stupid. Best not get into it if you do not recognise the pitfalls. One pitfall is supercede.

Although Brian is correct that "supersede" is the more common usage, although "supercede" is so commonly used that one might consider it a variant, rather than an error, he is all wrong about its etymology, leading him to say some stupid things.

If only supersede did come from a word meaning "sit above"! The sedan chair thing would then be almost poetic, a lovely etymology. Sadly, it's wrong, and curiously, it turns out that "supersede" is the variant, albeit the one that stuck.

Worse still, English borrowed the word as "supercede", because the word it borrowed was "superceder". The word that descended from was "supersedere", spelled with an "s". Yes, the Frenchies cannot spell.

And it gets much worse. Although "supersedere" strictly meant "to sit above", the French word meant "to delay" (among other meanings such as "to desist", which it also bore in Latin), and it was borrowed into English with that meaning.


Anonymous Paula Light said...

Neat. I had to teach a couple lawyers to spell it "supersede" because that's what we use here. Well, I say "we use" -- I mean that's what's in the dicos. Loads of people spell it with a "c" anyway, and it sort of looks right that way. Actually I just checked and there is an entry for "supercede." Word wants it with an "s."

May 16, 2007 at 11:19 PM  

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