Send in the ‘Crowns’ — Today’s Surly Grammar Post



A good piece in the Times today from Op-Ed columnist Charles Blow. The only quibble I have is with the headline: Don’t Coronate Carly Fiorina Just Yet.

Coronate? No, I don’t think so. The word is crown. You crown a monarch at a coronation; you do not coronate them.

Now, technically, coronate is in the dictionary and its meaning is “to crown,” thus, begging the question of why we need this word. Seems superfluous on its face. In fact, the OED labels this usage rare.

There has been an upswing in the usage of coronate recently and, like other ‘contrarian grammarians,’ I find it grating. Like utilize. No, it’s use.

Over on the excellent Grammarphobia blog they posit that it’s not the rare usage that the OED notes that we’re seeing/hearing these days, but rather:

If I had to guess, I’d say the verb “coronate” that you’re hearing is a back-formation from the noun “coronation.” (A back formation is a word formed by dropping a real or imagined part from another word.) In this case, people assume that at a coronation, somebody gets coronated.

I agree. And the New York Times should know better.

(Also, if you want to get REALLY pedantic, crowning someone in a democracy is a metaphoric oxymoron, but, it’s Monday and I’m just not going to go there.)

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