Thursday, April 19, 2007


Because I'm currently out-of-town and don't have as much consistent free time to keep up with wotd (plus, there are some recent words that rather annoy than inspire me--trice? bedaub???), here is another from my archives.

Suasion. I remember this word raising my hackles a couple of years ago when it was the wotd on August 13, 2001. [Ed. note: why must DD recycle words so quickly? It became wotd again on September 10, 2006. Probably means we are due for it again on November 7, 2011. Get ready!] DD defines both "suasion" and "persuasion" as "the act of persuading". Now, normally, I would start with there are no true synonyms and distinguish the etymologies on each, except the etymologies are a little fuzzy. Persuasion says it comes from Latin, "persuasion", while suasion says it comes from "suasion", so these are unhelpful, and the mere addition of the "per" meaning "through" doesn't add anything. Persuasion does not really mean through suasion, because the definition of suasion is backward to that construction. Suasion means through persuasion (and therefore should actually be "perpersuasion"). Or do the “per”s cancel? So, I think we have an issue of lazy usage being justified retroactively. If only I were near my OED. Maybe I'll supplement later. But, I'll make one last stab at a distinction, just for old times sake. The usage of suasion in the examples is non-specific, to a general perspective (e.g., moral or cultural norms), while persuasion is for a definite idea or opinion. I regularly persuade the judge to my argument, or try to persuade people to order different things off the menu so we can share and sample, but I might try to suade a child to be kind to animals or to always say please and thank you.

Good luck suading or persuading, as you see fit...

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