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transpire

July 16, 2012

I’ve been meaning to blog about this for a while now, but couldn’t seem to get round to it. A few weeks ago I came across the following sentence in the Independent: ‘And this is what appears to have transpired’, in a piece about Roy Hodgson’s work with the England football team (I think the journalist was Ian Birrell, but apologies to him if it wasn’t). If the word transpire was being used in its original sense here, that sentence would mean: ‘And this is what appears to have appeared’.

Simeon Potter, in Our Language, notes that according to its Latin derivation the word literally means to ‘breathe across’ and was originally used in English with what he calls the delicate meaning of ‘gradually to become apparent’. This delicate meaning has been all but lost, however; it’s now just used as a posh-sounding synonym for occur or happen. And that’s a great pity. We now have an extra synonym which we didn’t need and no word for ‘gradually to become apparent’.

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