Tuesday, January 20, 2009

forebearers vs forebears

In his inaugural address, the new President just used the word forebearers. While certainly more inclusive than forefathers, he could have used the more elegant noun forebears, as in My forebears were Italian. The word does however open the door to some Four bears walk into a gay bar jokes.

6 comments:

The Neighbors Will Hear said...

It's worse than that, I think. I don't believe that "forebearer" is even a word. Because people who correctly write "forebear" will often pronounce it so that it sounds like "forebearer," I went to check a text version of the speech. I might have gotten a bad transcription, but what I saw was "forbearer," which means "one who forbears," or "one who refrains from doing."

I'm going to give the President the benefit of the doubt and presume that he said "forebears" and added the extra syllable, as so many people do.

Paris said...

Ancestors would have been inclusive and more elegant, but then he would have had to skip the Lincoln allusion.

Anonymous said...

It should be spelled "forebears." I think that is what President Obama said, what he meant, and what his speechwriters intended, even though the official text they released as he spoke read "forbearers." Some newspapers have the transcript "forebears" but most "forbearers." The latter is in the semi-official CQ Transcriptions text in The New York Times and CNN and NBC. Note that President Kennedy in his Inaugural Address probably had "forbearers." Ted Sorenson was involved in writing both speeches. In written language we should avoid confusion between forebears (ancestors) and forbearers (abstainers). Better would be Lincoln's "forefathers," probably too sexist now. Can you help correct Obama's text?

Father Tony of the Farmboyz said...

Dear Anonymous,

Can I help correct Obama's text?

I could, I would, but I probably won't, given that I have yet to receive a call from the White House requesting that assistance.

(Did you mean to say Can you help but correct Obama's text?, as in, Isn't it irresistible?
If so, no, I can't forebear it.)

jen revved said...

dictionary: both are correct-- each synonymous with the other.

jen revved said...

dictionary: both are correct-- each synonymous with the other.