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December 12, 2011

In the sports pages of today’s Independent, Ian Herbert’s report of Tottenham Hotspurs’ (totally unjust) loss to Stoke City states that Spurs ‘returned to pummel Stoke in an enervating second half’.

Now, enervate means, or is supposed to mean, or used to mean ‘to weaken physically…mentally or morally; to destroy the capacity of’ (OED). Etymologically, it means to remove the nerve from (e-nerv-ate). Herbert couldn’t have meant it in this sense. I think he must have meant something like exciting and/or energetic – on the basis that enervating sounds similar to energising, though etymologically unrelated.

He is not alone in this error. JK Rowling uses Enervate in the Harry Potter books as a spell meaning ‘Wake up’ – again, clearly a confusion with energise. I predict that enervate’s original meaning will soon be lost. The gravitational pull of energy will prove too strong.

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  1. Hey thanks for this article, quite an interesting read. Are you going write a follow-up for it? I’ll be sure to check it out if it happens.!

    • Thanks Rachel – glad you liked it. I’m posting regularly so check out the blog from time to time.

      Best wishes


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