Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: supposable, suppositious, supposititious, suppositional, *suppositive

“Supposable” = capable of being supposed; presumable. E.g.: “He learns more about himself and the supposable dimension of man’s future.” Dick Richmond, “A Sequel to ‘The Celestine Prophecy,'” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 16 May 1996, at G7. “Suppositious” and “supposititious” sometimes cause confusion. Although some modern dictionaries list these as variants, some differentiation is both possible and desirable. “Suppositious” should be used to mean “hypothetical; theoretical; assumed.” E.g.: “House Speaker Thomas Foley . . . said: ‘I never answer questions like that. They are what are called suppositious questions.'” Michael Karnish, “Clinton Receives a High Court List,” Boston Globe, 16 Apr. 1994, at 1. “Supposititious” should be confined to its usual sense, “illegitimate; spurious; counterfeit.” E.g.: “This supposititious mortal mind, not God, is the parent of all oppression and abuse, individual and collective.” “The Circle of Love,” Christian Science Monitor, 11 Sept. 1996, at 17. Sometimes “suppositious” appears to be misused for its longer sibling — e.g.: “Lo finally has her baby by the side of a stream, with Elaine assisting. (The tidily achieved birth is the script’s one suppositious [read ‘supposititious’] touch.)” Stanley Kauffman, “Manny and Lo,” New Republic, 12 Aug. 1996, at 26. “Suppositional” = conjectural, hypothetical. It has much the same sense as “suppositious,” and is perhaps generally the clearer word. And it’s a little more common — e.g.: “Most of the play takes place in a tent, where Hale and Montresor argue their opposing world views, hopes and passions — a highly suppositional but dramatically irresistible approach, Ford admitted.” Paul Hodgins, “Short Memory an Asset for ‘Nathan Hale,'” Orange County Register, 3 Nov. 1995, at 29. *”Suppositive” is a needless variant of “supposititious” and “suppositional.” *Invariably inferior forms. For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “A writer, if he is to be reasonably honest, must express sentiments repugnant to a good many people.” Richard Neuberger, “I Run for Office” (1947), in Think Before You Write 30, 33 (William G. Leary & James Steel Smith eds., 1951).
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