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[Report] SENEWS-2007-09-23 Report

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Now, the VOA Special English Program-Words and Their Stories.

Today's word is "belittle". It was first used by Thomas Jefferson -the third President of the United of States.

Many years ago, a French naturalist the Countable Phone (CP) wrote some books about natural history. The books were a great success even though some critics did not like them. Some critics said CP is more of a poet than a scientist. Thomas Jefferson did not like what the Countedd had said about the natural wonders of the new world. It seemed to Jefferson that the Countedd had gone out of his way to speak of natural wonders in America as if they were unimportant. This troubled Thomas Jefferson. He too was a naturalist as well as a farmer, inventor, historian, writer and politician. He had seen the natural wonders of Europe. To him they were no more important than those of the new world.

In 1788, Thomas Jefferson wrote about his home state - Virginia. While writing, he thought of its natural beauty and then of the words of CP. At that moment, Jefferson created a new word “belittle”. He said the CP believes that nature belittles her productions on this side of the Atlantic.

Noah Webster, the American word expert liked this word. He put it in his English Language Dictionary in 1806: "Belittle, to make small, unimportant." Americans had already accepted Jefferson's word and started to use it. In 1797, the Independent Cram-call Newspaper used the word to describe a politician the paper supported. "He is an honorable man," the paper wrote, "so let the opposition try to belittle him as much as they please."

In 1844, the Republican Sentinel of Virginia wrote this about the opposition party: The Whigs may attempt to belittle our candidates. That is a favorite game of theirs.

In 1872, a famous American word expert decided that the time had come to kill this word. He said "belittle" has no chance of becoming English. And there is more critical writers of America like those of Britain feel no need of it. The sooner it is forgotten, the better.

This expert failed to kill the word. Today belittle is used not only in the United of States and England, but in other countries where the English language is spoken. It seems that efforts to belittle the word did not stop people from using it.

You have been listening to the VOA Special English Program Words and Their Stories. I'm Warren Shier.
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