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advocate

Printable Version Pronunciation: æd-vê-kayt, æd-vê-kit Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, Noun

Meaning: 1. (Verb) To speak for, support by speaking, to endorse. 2. (Noun) Someone who speaks out for, a supporter, a backer, a champion of a cause. 3. (Noun) A lawyer.

Notes: Today's Good Word is a homograph, two words that are spelled identically but pronounced differently. The verb is [æd-vê-kayt], but the noun is pronounced [æd-vê-kit]. Today's word comes with a panoply of derived forms. There are two nouns: advocation and advocacy. Both mean approximately the same thing. We also have two adjectives: advocative and advocatory.

In Play: To advocate something is not simply to recommend it, it is to champion it: "Seymour Fellows advocates two hours of hula-hooping every morning to keep in shape". An advocate is a champion of some cause: "Kaye Syrah-Cera is the strongest advocate of hedonism I know; all she talks about is how happy and carefree her life is."

Word History: Middle English borrowed this word fom Old French advocat, the remains of Latin advocatus, the past participle of advocare "to summon for counsel". This word is made up of ad "to(ward)" + vocare "to call". The verb came from vox (voc-s) "voice", which we see in vocal and vocation, one's calling. Once French had processed vox, it emerged in Old French as vois, which English promptly borrowed. We see it today as voice.

A funny thing happened to advocatus as it passed through Spanish. In Old Spanish it became avocado (abogado today). When the Spanish conquistadors came in contact with the Central American people known as Nahuatl, the Nahuatl introduced them to a new fruit which they called ahucatl. The pronunciation of this word presented problems to the Spanish conquerors, so they resorted to folk etymology and called the fruit "a lawyer": avocado (aguacate today). The confusion persists in French, which borrowed the word from Spanish: avocat today means "lawyer" and "avocado". (I am a strong advocate of thanking Annette Anderson for suggesting today's fascinating Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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