Friday, July 13, 2007

What's "transpiring" here?

Recently I heard Lou Dobbs say, "We'll see what transpires." Now I'm an admirer of Lou Dobbs for his keen intelligence and excellent handling of the English language, so I can only think that he's been led astray by the almost universal misuse of "transpire" to mean occur or happen.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines "transpire" as "to give off (vapor containing waste products) through the pores of the skin or the stomata of plant tissue." The Dictionary also gives the meanings "to occur or happen," but notes that 62% of its Usage Panel disapproves of using transpire in this sense.

I believe that using "transpire" when a simpler word would do stems from the human desire to sound erudite.

We should all remember that writing or speaking is best when it's clear and concise (unless you're a poet or a great novelist).


RUTH said...

I'm guilty of this as I would always use "transpired" in the sense of "what occurred"....perhaps deep down I'm a poet!

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