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You Don't Say John E. McIntyre writes about language, usage, journalism & arbitrarily chosen subjects.

In a word: adamant

The Baltimore Sun

Each week The Sun’s John McIntyre presents a relatively obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar, another brick to add to the wall of your vocabulary. This week's word:

A couple of weeks ago I had word of a reader’s complaint that I was using highfalutin words in Baltimore Sun headlines. (He objected to largesse.) Unrepentant as ever, last week I slipped adamant into a headline, but so far the villagers have not taken up their pitchforks and torches.

Adamant (pronounced AD-uh-ment) was originally a noun for a legendary rock, often associated with the diamond or the lodestone, supposed to be impenetrably hard. It rises from the Greek adamas, adamant, “untameable” or “invincible,” from a, “not” + daman “to tame.”

By the sixteenth century it had become an adjective in English meaning “refusing to be persuaded or to change one’s mind or principles,” “unyielding.”

Generously as ever, English furnished us with another adjective, adamantine, to mean the same damn thing, mostly in a literary sense as “unbreakable.”

Example: From The Washington Post, August 3, 2017: “This was one of dozens of tweets criticizing Obama for playing golf. … It was one of a handful that also dinged Obama for taking a vacation. On the campaign trail, Trump was adamant: He would rarely play golf – ‘I'm not going to have time to go play golf,’ he once said – and he certainly wasn't going to take a lot of vacation.”

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