Though these days the term wordmonger refers to "a writer or speaker who uses language pretentiously or carelessly," please join me in proposing a new meaning. A fishmonger appreciates and promotes fish, therefore, a wordmonger does the same for words.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Alternative facts

Alternative facts

Alternative facts are getting a lot of play these days. It shouldn’t surprise us that the term alternative facts can be alternatively understood, since over time both words have had varied meanings.

The adjective alternative grew out of the Latin word alter, to change or make something different. Its origin is the Proto-Indo-European word *al-, which meant beyond. Alternative showed up in English in the 1580s, meaning offering one or the other of two

When used in rhetoric during the 1600s, alternative meant a proposition of two statements, the acceptance of one implying the rejection of the other. 

By 1970, alternative picked up the meaning purporting to be a superior choice to what is in general use.

The noun fact came from the Medieval Latin word factum, which translates literally to thing done. As time passed, Medieval Latin became Latin, & factum came to mean event, occurrence, deed, or achievement. When it made its way to English as fact in the 1530s, it meant anything done, though in usage, the anything done to which the word fact referred was usually an evil deed.

Grist for the mill, eh?

Anything to say about all this? Please leave a comment or two in the comments section.





Big thanks to this week’s sources: Etymonline, Wordnik, Merriam-Webster, & The OED.

10 comments:

  1. Mr. Perryess, I would like to offer the following for your following:

    As you report, a fact is something that is "done," as in settled, although perhaps we should add "well" to the "done," if there is no controversy regarding it, i.e., the unquestionable fact in question.

    Howmsoever, if the fact is not done, as in settled, then there may, indeed, be an alternative to the questionable fact in question. Yet, does that not imply that neither the so-called fact nor its alternative are indubitably facts? Furthermore (or farthermore for those schooled in south-central New Joisy), facts tend to be both slippery and dicy thingamabobs (i.e.a.o.u., they change or "alter" (as in alternative). All (or none) of which may lead to the, perhaps, inconclusive conclusion that there are no truly settled (as in "done") facts, which may lead us all to dance around the maypole with such speed and abandon that we fly off into Alternative Newtonian space, never more (or "nevermore," to follow Poe) to be seen or heard from again.

    Okay, think I'll just take a nap.

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    1. Dear Mr. Figler,
      How could I possibly respond to such infallible brilliance?

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  2. Loved SK Figler's comment above. I immediately came to the inconclusive conclusion that I know absolutely nothing about anything.

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  3. Replies
    1. Hey Teri - Thanks for coming by, & thanks for the compliment.

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  4. Facts once again mean evil deeds. Otherwise, we wouldn't be offered alternative ones. Every day.

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  5. Facts were once referred to as evil deeds. Interesting. Then what is an "alternative fact"? A good deed? Yikes. Too topsy-turvy for me for me to ponder.

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    Replies
    1. Hey Christine - life is, indeed, topsy-turvy these days -- even more so than usual. Thanks for coming by.

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