The Words of the Week - 3/19/2021

Some of the words that defined the week ending March 19, 2021
field in sunshine

Spring is almost here!


An apparently successful effort to initiate a new gubernatorial election in California has caused recall to spike in lookups this past week.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom readies for recall election fueled by backlash to pandemic restrictions
— (headline) USA Today, 17 Mar. 2021

Recall may function as either a verb or a noun. In the case of the verb it carries such meanings as “to call back” (as in ‘a soldier recalled to active duty’) or “to bring back to mind” (as in ‘I recalled the events of the dinner party with a shudder’). The noun may mean such as “a public call by a manufacturer for the return of a product that may be defective or contaminated,” “a call to return,” or, as is the case in California, “the right or procedure by which an official may be removed by vote of the people.” In this voting sense recall is often found employed in an attributive manner, preceding the word election.

’Hate crime’ & ‘Misogyny’

A man shot and killed eight people in Atlanta last week, six of whom were women of Asian descent; two words that came up often in the coverage were hate crime and misogyny.

Asian American civil rights groups have raised concerns about violence in recent weeks amid new data showing a historic rise in anti-Asian hate crimes across parts of the nation with the largest Asian American communities.
— Jaweed Kaleem and Richard Read, Los Angeles Times, 17 Mar. 2021

The Atlanta shootings can’t be divorced from racism and misogyny
— (headline) Vox, 18 Mar. 2021

We define hate crime as “any of various crimes (such as assault or defacement of property) when motivated by hostility to the victim as a member of a group (such as one based on color, creed, gender, or sexual orientation),” and misogyny as “hatred of, aversion to, or prejudice against women.”


A report issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence raised the possibility that Rudy Giuliani former mayor of New York City, had been an unwitting ally of Russian efforts to influence the recent presidential election.

Unwitting may mean “not knowing, unaware,” or “not intended, inadvertent.” One may also be witting, a somewhat less common word that we define as “cognizant or aware of something,” or “done deliberately.”


The continuing conflict on the matter of the filibuster in the United States Senate caused scorched-earth to appear in numerous articles of late, after Mitch McConnell, Senate minority leader, averred that he would pursue just this sort of thing if Democrats voted to change this legislative tactic.

After Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, called for changes to reduce its power, Mr. McConnell, of Kentucky, bluntly promised a “scorched earth” response and pledged to grind the Senate to a standstill and derail Mr. Biden’s agenda if Democrats took that step.
— Carl Hulse, The New York Times, 17 Mar. 2021

Scorched-earth may be defined as “directed toward victory or supremacy at all costs,” or “relating to or being a military policy involving deliberate and usually widespread destruction of property and resources (such as housing and factories) so that an invading enemy cannot use them.” The second definition is the older of the two, dating from 1937, when it began to be reported on as a tactic used by the Chinese army in the Second Sino-Japanese War.

The observer said the soldiers were laying the city in complete ruins in accordance with the Chinese Government’s official “scorched earth policy.” This policy favors destruction of cities and the countryside rather than leaving them for Japanese occupation.
The Baltimore Sun, 8 Dec. 1937

Our Antedating of the Week: ’supposably’

Our antedating of the week is supposably (“as may be conceived or imagined”), the adverbial form of supposable (“capable of being supposed”). The earliest known use of this word had previously come in 1739, but we’ve come across evidence of the word used in the late 17th century.

I observe two grand defects in this Reply; One, that 'tis not supposably legal, that all the Tenants in the Mannor can by Legal Forms of Judgment dispossess a Lawful, and possess a wrong Person into the Lordship of a Mannor, because these Tenants are not Judges in Law.
— Samuel Hill, A debate on the justice and piety of the present constitution under K. William in two parts, the first relating to the state, the second to the church : between Eucheres, a conformist, and Dyscheres, a recusant, 1696