Define, “Enervate” (Ahem, Ahem)
“Mr. Obama’s goal, it seems, was to indicate his continued willingness to serve in a job he believes he can do better than the other guy, but that doesn’t really seem to enervate or enliven him. That’s a problem, and not only for the duration of the campaign.”
–Matt Bai, “Obama’s Enthusiasm Gap“; The New York Times (10/4/2012)
“Phanâ€²-to-nym”: a word that looks as if it means one thing, but means quite another, and warrants wariness.
–Jack Rosenthal, “On Language: Phantonym“; The New York Times (9/25/2009)
One could doubtless live a full life never knowing what the word “enervate” means.
But, if you’re a columnist for The New York Times — or their editor — and want to use that word in an opinion piece (albeit at the very end), you really should know that it means “weaken” or “debilitate” (vs. a synonym for “energize”).
Or perhaps it was a Freudian slip??
P.S.: William Safire, an illustrious NYT columnist (and language connoisseur) from days gone by, would have been mortified by Bai’s gaffe.