Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Vetting Candidates

Jim from Elk Rapids came across the phrase “vetting a candidate” and wondered about its origin. It could well be replaced by “background check.”

The vet at the core of the word and its variants is the veterinarian. Veterinarian came from a Latin word meaning pertaining to cattle (1791), but it quickly widened in scope to include other farm animals.

By 1891, it was a standard term in horse racing. To vet a horse was to have it examined by a veterinarian to determine if the animal was fit for racing. It’s no coincidence that we refer to the political process as the presidential race.

By 1898, it had been expanded to mean to examine or treat a human being medically. Six years later, it had morphed into a non-medical meaning: to examine a person carefully to determine if he or she is suitable to hold a sensitive position.

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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