Everything old is new again

The Baltimore Sun

A tweet today from Constance Hale (@sinandsyntax): "I love it -- vapor -- a new synonym for bragging or idle talk. I've never seen the word as a verb, I don't think..."

I like it myself, particularly after enduring an evening of Twittertwit vaporing over the choice of Ben Affleck to star in the next Batman movie. (You know who you are.) 

But I felt certain that the word's potential as a verb for the production of pretentious or idle chatter could not have been overlooked.

And I was right. After a series of entries on "vapour/vapor v." about producing vapor or evaporating, the Oxford English Dictionary arrives at "To use language as light or insubstantial as vapour; to talk fantastically, grandiloquently, or boastingly; to brag or bluster." The first citation is from John Ford's Lovers Melancholy: "He vapours like a Tinker, and struts like a Iuggler." Milton's Eikonoklastes of 1649 has "Poets indeed used to vapor much after this manner." Hazlitt's Table-talk OF 1869 has "Strutting and vapouring about his own pretensions." 

Merriam-Webster's Unabridged adds "speak or write in a pompous or inflated style," so we can bring text into play as well. 

I am deeply grateful to Ms. Hale for bringing this venerable and ever-useful word to mind, and I hope that all of you will exploit the possibilities it offers. 


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