Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Word of the day

Today's word is caveat, used as a verb. Used in a meeting right here, yesterday. But I loved it at first sight. In fact, this usage goes back some time. 

We all know what a caveat is in normal usage - it is used in the sense of a qualification or warning, a limitation to a statement's face value meaning. It is from Latin, and is used in Latin expressions such as caveat emptor (let the buyer beware).

Here's an example from the Wiktionary of this usage, from former US Secretary of State, General Alexander Haig, famous for his creative use of English: 'I'll have to caveat my response, Senator, and I'll caveat that' - from Robert McCrum's The Story of English.

The legitimacy of Haig's usage as been debated, but as McCrum says, he was simply displaying the virtuosity of English, if not its grace. Don't caveat me, and I won't caveat you.