Saturday, April 14, 2007

Accede v. Concede

Today's wotd, accede, has raised my own comparison that I have been want to do for some time, particularly given that these are verbs I use rather regularly. It's about time I understand their true nuances.

Accede derives from the Latin "accedere" for "ad" (to, toward) and "cedere" (to move, to yield). Poetically, then the word literally means to move or yield to or toward something or someone, and thus, to agree or assent. Meanwhile, concede derives from the same root "cedere", but with the prefix "con" meaning with or together. Therefore, poetically, concede means to move or yield with or together, and therefore, apparently derives to mean "to acknowledge as true, just or proper" or "to make a concession". Ah, the difference a prefix can make. Well, the evolution of the usage of accede makes sense, the idea that as one comes to accept a thought, one moves towards that side, whether literally (back when voting occurred by counting bodies on the two sides of a room) or figuratively (still retaining that convention). But the "con" prefix does not tend to add any veracity to the decision, except inasmuch as when people move "together" on an idea, they jointly (and severally) believe it is correct for whatever reason--else why would they yield to the idea.

Unfortunately, compounding the problem, concede and accede are used nearly interchangeably--that one may both accede to someone's wishes and concede to that same someone's wishes. So what is the difference? Accede connotes a degree of belief and willingness on the part of the one changing a position, while concede connotes a reluctance or pressure to make the change. Parents often accede to their children's whims every now and then. But the lower ranked chess player conceded the win to his opponent. Perhaps he shouldn't have--there is still much to be learned in losing a match. Boot camp teaches its enlisted personnel accede to the rigors of training, but never to concede to the enemy. Eh, in a pinch. To move on in oral argument to the substantive issue does not concede the procedural issue as much as accede to the wishes of the Court perhaps to discuss the weightier issue.

Ok, so my instincts have been right because the distinction has only been based on the connotations and not the etymology, or even the definitions. Go figure. I accede to my instincts, and concede that DD may never be useful.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The etymology here does define the subsequent proper use of these two words as well as the connotations ascribed to each; in that, "ad" indicates an individual's sole discretionary and personal motivations toward agreement or acceptance of a position or title while "con" indicates an inherent inclusion of motivations toward agreement that at the very least originate from without the individual, but that typically are also in opposition to the individual's philosophical stance, threatens to change his position for the worse or to prevent her elevation to an attempted position of power or status.