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Re-purposing pre-owned cars

The rector has overlooked another unhappy aspect of the practice of minting words like “multitasking.” It is a gross abuse of our language by folks who ought to know better—one that devalues the English language by undermining vocabularies.

I confess I still can’t fly over an automobile sales lot without tossing my cookies (figuratively speaking) at signs that read: “Pre-owned cars!!!!” Shakespeare never used “pre-owned,” nor for that matter did Mickey Spillane. It didn’t even appear in the tabloids until a money grubbing used car salesman of dubious literacy coined it as a clunky euphemism for “second hand.”

It is not hard to understand why used car merchants would try to expunge the stigma attached to the words “used” and “secondhand” in connection with automobiles. But now the term “pre–owned” is being adopted by realtors to describe houses that are slightly less than brand spanking new. One wonders what can have possessed them? Are they, perhaps, married to used car sales people? Or are they utterly devoid of good taste? Or could it be that they are actually verbal terrorists determined to massacre the English tongue?

Be that as it may, yet another verbal abomination recently crossed my horizon. I heard it first on “Antique Road Show” I am sorry to relate—and the English version, no less. While pontificating on a perfectly respectable vintage Louis Vuitton steamer trunk, a very youthful expert opined that such artifacts were in great demand among the “chic” and were often “re–purposed.” By the time, I picked up my beak from the floor I had learned that steamer trunks were generally “re–purposed“ as coffee tables.

What was an apparently decent, well–educated young man doing using a hideous non–word like “re–purpose” when an apt and entirely appropriate word like “convert” lay readily to hand?

True, “convert” lost some appeal when the rector’s father “converted” a batch of empty straw covered Chianti bottles into table lamps. But not everybody’s dad is apt to “convert”—by dint of much sawing, hammering and cursing—an antique Sheraton side table into an uneven rhomboid purported to be a knife box.

But if this word “re–purposed” is allowed to catch on, what on earth will become of “converts” to Christianity? I haven’t yet heard cutting edge “clergy persons” referring “re-purposed atheists, agnostics and Moslems,” but you can bet it’s only a matter of time. Pip! Pip!

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