Monday, October 7, 2013

Known for Renown

It's getting tiresome to see how frequently writers who are paid to know how to use words say that someone is “renown”—meaning “famous” for being great at something. 

Renown (rhymes with clown) is not an adjective; it’s a noun meaning “fame, or the state of being acclaimed or highly honored.” Its root is the Middle English renoun, from the Anglo-French renomer, meaning to “report or speak of.” Ultimately it comes from the Latin nominer, “to name.” If you want to use in adjectival form, the word is renowned.

The misusage undoubtedly stems from confusing the –nown in renown with the –nown in known.  Known, which rhymes with own, is the past participle of know, and it can, of course, be used adjectivally.  You can be known for your ability to play Beethoven’s Ninth on a kazoo—or you can be renowned for it.

I don’t want to repeat this lesson, so I hope those of you who have committed this atrocity have paid attention.

The Bard of Buffalo Bayou does not pay attention to anything, and that lackadaisical attitude will someday be either his downfall or his comeuppance.  But not today. 

              When I was walking into town, 
              I met a man of great renown, 
              One eye was blue, and one was brown. 

              The wind came up and soon had grown 
              Quite strong, and as you might have known, 
              His eyes it blew, so both were blown.

No comments:

Post a Comment