Greetings from inside the SEOigloo!
Today, I am instituting a new feature in our copywriting category: A Grammar Minute. This will be my place to jot down notes about English language usage as they occur to me. I believe that today’s most popular forms of media are making correct usage of our idiom ever more unclear. The words we hear on TV, the writing we read in newspapers, blogs and most modern works of fiction are obscuring grammar basics and are constantly narrowing people’s vocabularies rather than expanding them. I have a lifelong love of languages, etymology and philology, but am frequently guilty of lazy writing, simply because it has become customary for Americans to express an easy disposition by using sloppy English. In this series of posts, which will be random, I intend to present subjects of grammar and disappearing words. I hope my readers may find these little notes interesting.
Obtain vs. Pertain
Both of these useful words arrived in Modern English by way of Middle English, by way of Old French, by way of Latin. In both cases, there is one familiar definition and one that may be less commonly understood. Let’s take a look.
Old French: Obtenir Old Latin: Obtinere
1) To acquire or secure
example: I will obtain a WordPress blog tomorrow.
2) To be prevalent, customary or established
example: On the Internet, good manners should still obtain.
It is the second usage that I believe is almost gone from common speech. I encountered it just last night in a book about the Civil War, published in the 1940s. Are we forgetting that this sense of this word exists?
Old French: Partenir Old Latin: Pertinere
1) to be appropriate to, applicable to, related to
example: Your blog comment pertains the the post I wrote last January.
2) to be in effect or existence during a specified time
example: Back in the 1990s, the practice of keyword stuffing meta tags pertained because search engine algorithms were more easily exploited.
Again, I’ve noticed that the first definition is still in fairly current usage, but that the second one is encountered less often.
We have so many wonderful words in our idiom, with so many fine shades of meaning. Let’s use them!