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Anglo-Saxon vs. Latinate: The Semantics of Verbal Inanition

There is a tendency in latter-day English on both sides of the Atlantic, but especially in America, to substitute the combination of native verbs + postpositions for simplex Latinate verbs, e.g., push back for resist, step down for resign, reach out for extend (oneself), give back for recompense, etc. The last example in particular, in the meaning of donating or making a contribution (to charity, to the community, etc.), is now ubiquitous despite being catachrestic (for omitting the direct object, i.e., giving [something] back). Although avoidance of the Latinate synonym for an Anglo-Saxon word has long been recognized as a stylistic desideratum in the service of plainspokenness,  there is no gainsaying the effeteness and vacuity of these verb combinations, since step down and its congeners have only the fuzziest relation, if any, to the action they have been lazily adapted to connote.

MICHAEL SHAPIRO

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