• slate •
slayt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, transitive
Meaning: 1. (Everywhere) To cover with slate. 2. (US only) To schedule, to put on a slate or list of activities. 3. (Outside the US) To thrash thoroughly, physically or verbally. 4. To attack with dogs.
Notes: From time to time we feel obliged to issue warnings about words whose meaning changes from one English-speaking region to another. For example, it's OK to knock up (rouse by knocking) someone outside the US but it is frowned upon in the US. And we don't wear rubbers on our feet in the US but elsewhere in the English-speaking world (where rubbers are overshoes) it is quite common. Today's Good Word is another, as the Meanings above suggests.
In Play: In the US we may say things like, "Rhoda Book was slated for an interview on NPR last week but never showed up." A South African, like today's contributor, might reply, "Rhoda has been in a blue funk since her last novel was slated by the critics." However, Rhoda's friends in the US won't understand this comment at all unless they subscribe to our Good Words.
Word History: This Good Word came from Old French esclat "split piece of wood, splinter", from esclater "to break, splinter, burst". Old French borrowed this word from an old Germanic word slaitan "to tear, slit", which descended to English to become slit. This word was used in the sense of "beat with a slat" which went on to become the third Meaning above. The sense of "to schedule" came from the fact that this stone splits easily into smooth thin plates on which our ancestors wrote with chalk. Adding an item to a slate often scheduled it for an event, leading to the US sense of the verb. The sense of attacking with dogs comes from a different word, Old Norse sleita, which entered English in the 14th century as sleat. That word has been replaced in most dialects by sick, as to sick dogs on someone. (We slated today's Good Word in response an alert from Chris Stewart of South Africa that the meaning of this word varies wildly from one English-speaking region to another.)
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