What is the month that follows January? Feburary, right? Actually, February, but to my ear I never hear the “r” pronounced. Same with the day that follows Tuesday. Wenesday, right? (At this point the spell checker is not happy with me). I never hear the “d.” Such things even impact the modern political landscapeIn today’s column on language, linguist John McWhorter wrote:

After his indictment last week, Donald Trump announced on Truth Social, “These Thugs and Radical Left Monsters have just INDICATED the 45th President of the United States of America.”

We know he meant “indicted,” and that the typo is typical of his bed-head version of public language. However, on a certain level, one understands the cause of the slip. The “c” in “indict” is confusing because it’s silent, and there is a semantic overlap between indication and indictment — both are about pointing out, pronouncement. It’s because they began as highly similar Latin words with those meanings: “indict” from “indictare,” and “indicate” from “indicare.”

The sire of “indict,” “indictare,” lost its “c” in French, and that’s what Middle English borrowed to create “indite.” We still pronounce it closer to that way, but some underoccupied pedant around 1600 decided that the word needed to salute its history and have the Latin “c” jammed back in. It’s similar to the reason “island” isn’t spelled “iland.”

“Indicate” was borrowed centuries later than “indict,” directly from Latin, complete with that original “c.” Hence, we have variations on, essentially, the same Latin word. And on top of that, the word still exists in English with its original spelling: the word “indite,” which means “to put in writing.” Or at least the dictionary says so.

The point of McWhorter’s article, in part, was there is evolution and change in the spoken language. The very thing which the written version of language strongly resists. I guess the written language stands ever ready to indict and indicate the errors of its spoken cousin.

2 thoughts on “

  1. It ain’t true, enough said, all right or alright? Can you hear any difference there? That is why in high school parents would tell kids to study Latin – a dead language, never changing,going nowhere but supposedly helpful in learning sciences.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.