Monday, April 21, 2014


I received three “Is that really a word?” inquiries last week.  There’s a strong subjective element involved. The questioner will often say, “that just doesn’t sound right.”

Kelley objected to the phrase preheat the oven, claiming that you are simply heating the oven. Preheating would involve a cold oven. I’m afraid that it doesn’t quite work that way. The pre- in preheat doesn’t mean “the state before heat was introduced.” It means “to heat the oven before the food is introduced.” The first example in the Oxford English Dictionary tracks back to 1862.

Charles didn’t like the word reconfirm. Even if there’s repeated action, he maintained, each instance is a confirmation. The Oxford English Dictionary begs to differ, defining reconfirm as “to confirm, ratify, or establish anew.”  It cites 1587 as the first example.

Michael has a problem with the word overpay, as in are you afraid to overpay? It means to compensate someone beyond what is actually owed. I’m not sure what his objection is—perhaps he would prefer pay too much—but the OED gives the first instance as 1590, so it’s been around for a while.

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

Nook edition

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.comand clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.


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