Untenable or Untenuous?
Steve from Traverse City
called in to say that he heard President Obama misusing a word. Steve thought he
heard the President say that “we are facing an untenuous fiscal situation.”
My first reaction was to
agree that untenuous is simply not a word. There is the word tenuous, which
means slender, weak, insubstantial. It came from the Latin tenuis, thin. But it is not
negated by adding the prefix un-.
Later, it occurred to me
that the President might have used the word untenable. That came from the Latin
verb tenere, to hold. Untenable is
equivalent to indefensible, incapable of being supported. So I turned to a
search engine and found the following in a Reuters News report:
"I realize that we are facing
an untenable fiscal situation," he told a meeting of his economic recovery
advisory board to discuss strengthening the partnership between community
colleges and the private sector. "What I won't do is cut back on
investments like education."
It turns out that he didn’t use untenuous after all.
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