Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A good word

Anticipate is a lovely word with a precise and very useful
meaning, one that no other word supplies. It means to
successfully guess or figure out what’s going to happen
and to act accordingly. A rugby player who anticipates a
pass by a member of the other team is one who correctly
picks which way the pass will go and intercepts it or in
some way negates its intended effect. Many years ago,
however, anticipate began to be used in the sense of
expect, and now it’s commonly used that way,
particularly by politicians who think a long word sounds
more important than a short one. Thus John Key in
today’s New Zealand Herald, commenting on the state
of the nation’s accounts, as disclosed by Treasury:

We had anticipated they would be bad, but they
were a bit worse than we had anticipated.

If the word is correctly used, then it's impossible for
something to be worse than you anticipated. Expected,
yes. Expected would have done the job perfectly well. If
you must cut taxes, John, then cut back on the syllables
too. And help conserve a good word while you're at it.

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