Trending: β€˜recant’

Lookups spiked 5,700% on November 11, 2020

Why are people looking up recant?

Recant topped our lookups on November 11, 2020 when, in a slightly confusing chain of events, a US Postal Service employee in Pennsylvania said that he witnessed potential evidence of mail-in vote tampering, claiming that a postmaster in Erie told postal employees to backdate ballots mailed after Election Day. Large cash rewards have been offered to anyone witnessing apparent tampering by groups supporting claims of vote fraud in the election.

Then, according to The Washington Post:

But on Monday, Hopkins, 32, told investigators from the U.S. Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General that the allegations were not true, and he signed an affidavit recanting his claims

However, the Washington Post continues:

But in a YouTube video he posted Tuesday night, he denied recanting. β€œI’m here to say I did not recant my statements. That did not happen,” he said.

President Trump then announced with a Tweet that the postal worker had recanted his recant, apparently, prompting some to wonder about the meaning of recant, since it was the initial reported claim that supported the president.

What does recant mean?

Recant means "to publicly say that you no longer have an opinion or belief that you once had" or "to withdraw or repudiate (a statement or belief) formally and publicly." It is a synonym of revoke

Where does recant come from?

Recant comes from Latin; re- meaning "again" + cantare meaning "to sing," so literally it means "to sing again" or, one might say, "to change one's tune."

What is notable about this use of recant?

In a coincidence of spelling, if not of meaning, The Oxford English Dictionary shows that recant ("to sing again") has sometimes been used as a synonym of recount ("to describe or give an account of"), but not the meaning "to count again."

Trend Watch is a data-driven report on words people are looking up at much higher search rates than normal. While most trends can be traced back to the news or popular culture, our focus is on the lookup data rather than the events themselves.

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