In 1949, the year before his death, writer George Orwell (born Eric Arthur Blair) published his dark and disturbing vision of the future, “1984.” When the year 1984 finally rolled around, many people were relieved to note that things didn’t seem quite that bad — yet. For me, there was one thing that couldn’t have been any worse in 1984: That’s when the term “repurpose” first appeared. All right, I’m exaggerating there, but this is a word I do not like.
In 1949, the year before his death, writer George Orwell (born Eric Arthur Blair) published his dark and disturbing vision of the future, “1984.”
It presents, as the World Book puts it, “a frightening portrait of a totalitarian society that punishes love, destroys privacy and distorts truth.”
A Wikipedia entry says it depicts “a world of perpetual war, pervasive government surveillance and incessant public mind control.”
It’s the book that gave us “doublethink” and “Big Brother,” who was always watching.
When the year 1984 finally rolled around, many people were relieved to note that things didn’t seem quite that bad — yet.
For me, there was one thing that couldn’t have been any worse in 1984: That’s when the term “repurpose” first appeared. All right, I’m exaggerating there, but this is a word I do not like.
For starters, how many times have you heard someone talk about “purposing” something? If there’s no purposing, how can there be repurposing?
I was gratified that I couldn’t find “repurpose” in either Webster’s New World College Dictionary or Webster’s unabridged. However, several online sources took a stab at defining it:
“To use or convert for use in another format or product.”
“To give a new purpose or use to.”
“To use in a new way that’s different from its original use without having to be changed very much.”
“To change the media format of.”
That last one is essentially how the term is used in the newspaper business. For example, a story that’s published in the paper gets “repurposed” for online. Translation: The same story is put up on our website.
Essentially, something that’s repurposed is recycled, reused, repackaged ... in a sense, even regurgitated. It’s a term that’s somewhat reminiscent of another one I don’t care for, “regifted.”
I’m not complaining about the actions, just the terms for them. For me, “repurpose” has no real purpose.
OK, I got that out of my system. Now I can even acknowledge that “purpose” can be a verb; but when it is, it means the same as “propose” — “to intend, resolve, plan.” “Propose” and “purpose” are two more “pose” words whose roots got entangled a long time ago.
“Purpose” as a noun can be “intention,” “determination,” “the object for which something exists or is done.”
Things can be done “purposely,” that is, “with a definite purpose; intentionally; deliberately,” or “purposefully,” with resolve toward a specific goal or with meaning.
Idiomatically, we often do things “on purpose,” and they can come “to good purpose” or “to little (or “no”) purpose.”
As for “propose,” it can mean “to put forth for consideration or acceptance,” “to plan, intend,” “to present as a toast in drinking,” “to nominate” or “to offer marriage.”
Two other verbs in this tangled lineage are “propone” and “propound.” Webster’s indicates the former is Scottish and means the same as “propose.” We’re more likely to use the noun form, though: “proponent.”
“Propound” is an alteration of “propone,” and also is a synonym for “propose.”
“Proposal” is the safe pick for the noun of the family, because “proposition” is also an informal term for “an unethical or immoral proposal, specifically one of illicit sexual relations in return for some gain.”
You don’t want your proposal mistaken for a proposition.
Contact Barry Wood at email@example.com or read his blog at blogs.e-rockford.com/woodonwords/.