Podcast obviate

Printable Version
Pronunciation: ahb-vi-yayt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. To make unnecessary. 2. To eliminate or prevent.

Notes: The meaning of this Good Word is anything but obvious. In fact, it is not semantically related to the word obvious, even though the two words do share a common root (see History below). So beware this curveball of a Good Word: it does not mean "to make obvious". The noun is obviation and the adjective is obviative. The adjective also does not have an obvious meaning, either: it is used only to refer to an obscure grammatical function found in a few American Indian languages.

In Play: To obviate the obvious, let's first use this word in an ordinary turn of phase like, "Mike Raffone's long introductory remarks obviated most of the visiting lecturer's speech." Unfortunately, a form of obviation in its second sense, "to eliminate", has become a way of doing business recently: "The new plant in India obviated most of the positions in Anita Job's division."

Word History: The Good Word today originated as obviatus, the past participle of Latin obviare "to meet, withstand, prevent". This verb contains the preposition ob "toward, up to, against" and viare "go, travel", which comes from via "road, way". Via we see in Via Appia "the Appian Way", Italy's oldest road, and in our preposition via "by way of", as in to send via airmail. The original root also emerged in Latin as veh-, which underlies English vehicle. In Germanic languages that V became a W, so we see it in German Wagen (as in Volkswagen "the people's car", and English wagon (UK waggon), and way. Now, the adjective obvious comes from the Latin adjective obvius, built from the phrase ob viam "in the way, within reach". I hope this obviates all your questions about today's Good Word.

Dr. Goodword,

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