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Vouchsafe

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  • To vouchsafe is to condescend to grant something.

    These writers the word in its traditional sense:

    At last I am at liberty to vouchsafe to you the dozen rules in reading a political column. [NY Times]

    We note that the true Prince of Darkness, Dick Cheney, has been dutifully silent, and conspicuously absent, during the recent national security festivities, to vouchsafe the limelight to Junior. [Register]

    The condescension is key. Vouchsafe is not merely a synonym of grant. For example, this writer would do well to use grant instead of vouchsafe:

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    Yet, Western Civilization vouchsafes right of dissent, by Western values if not always by action. [San Francisco Sentinel]

    Nor is vouchsafe a synonym of vouch for. These writers obviously mean that instead of vouchsafe:

    Agriculture ministers from both sides have agreed that Russian and Polish vets will sign a memorandum to vouchsafe the quality of the Polish meat. [euronews]

    Kerry predictably has sent his Jewish political allies to vouchsafe for his pro-Israel bona fides. [Jewish Journal]

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    Comments

    1. ThreeCheeseFondue says:

      Thanks for this. “Vouchsafe” is a lovely word; I used it funnily enough for the first time that I can remember the other day. Sadly, after looking the word up shortly after I had used it (I do sometimes get anxious should I have misused an uncommon word) I found that I had misused it – I had thought that it meant “reveal something (secret/private) in confidence”. Doh!

    2. Words mean whatever we say it means—the consensus is key. To me, vouchsafe means what it sounds like. This is the alternate definition of the word that the author ignores:
      2. To reveal or disclose (information).

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