Saturday, April 18, 2015
Florence asked about the word amenable. First of all, she wondered about the correct pronunciation of the word. Then she was curious about shades of meaning.
As far as pronunciation goes, there are two versions. A quick search of a few dictionaries shows that the preferred pronunciation is ah-MEEN-able. In other words, the vowel is long. However, the secondary pronunciation ah-MEN-able (short vowel quality) is also permissible. A safe principle to follow is that if a dictionary entry shows more than one pronunciation, the first one given is more widely acceptable and should be used.
“Willing to accept” summarizes the common meaning: I am amenable to a change in the meeting date. “Capable of being tested” is another variation in meaning: The data should be amenable to professional analysis.
The word came from an Anglo-Norman term that meant to lead. The earliest uses were legal in nature, and amounted to “answerable to legal authority.” By the 19th century, the meaning had shifted to responsive and disposed to submit in a non-judicial forum.
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