Thursday, November 22, 2007


Having just finished a major weeding project in anticipation of winter, this word seemed especially appropriate.

Extirpate comes from the Latin "ex" for "without" and "stirp" for "stem". I'll take a brief moment to discuss the suffix "ate", which originally in Latin was used with adjectives (making a verb into an adjective), but in English, "ate" is used to make other forms of words into verbs. Go figure. Must have occurred in the Dark Ages when everything seemed to be backward. So, literally, the word means "to make or cause to be without a stem", as something is pulled out by the root.

So, back to my weeding project... Extirpating weeds from a brick walk nearly impossible, so I prefer to burn the weed to the root. When you see a grey hair, do you extirpate it, or leave it be? Ok, while that's correct, it just sounds too funny. It's up there with extirpating the unwanted hair in your ear or between your eye brows. Waxing is just a fancy form of extirpation (and perhaps exfoliation as a side benefit). Anything that can be pulled out by the root. Weeds. Check. Hair. Check. It's easier to apply with things that have physical roots, but it could be just as easily extended to the intangible. Can we extirpate the root of all evil? Grammatically, yes. Theoretically, no. Now, could Plaintiff's counsel extirpate the lies his client tells him? Again, grammatically, yes. Theoretically, no.

Let us work to extirpate poor word usage wherever possible.

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