Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: untrammeled.

untrammeled. “Untrammeled” = unfettered; free. A trammel is a restraint in the form of a net or shackle. E.g.: “When Bush leaves office . . . , the radical theory of untrammeled executive power propounded by his administration will leave, too.” Richard Just, “House Hold,” New Republic, 12 Mar. 2008, at 2. The traditional sense can be stretched too far — e.g.: “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Wilderness Act of 1964, 16 U.S.C. § 1131(c). Perhaps the drafters were thinking of “untrampled.” A better word choice might have been “unchanged,” or some such word. Unfortunately, and perhaps because of its sanction in that statute, this new “green” sense of “untrammeled” is trampling on the word’s traditional sense — e.g.: o “[Sara] Thomas understands the love of untrammeled [read ‘wilderness’] spaces.” Sharon Gittleman, “Livingston County: Observers to Peek at Wilderness Habitat,” Detroit Free Press, 13 May 2007, News §, at 4. o “The Hudson River School artists typically painted landscapes untrammeled [read ‘untouched’] by man.” Roy Proctor, “New River Views,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, 17 June 2007, at G12. o “The two senior Vauxes live on an idyllic spread at Lloyd’s Neck, surrounded by untrammeled [read ‘untrampled’? ‘unspoiled’?] countryside.” Ariella Budick, “Their Home Is Where the Art Is,” Newsday (N.Y.), 20 June 2007, at B6. Language-Change Index — “untrammeled” misused for “untrampled” or “unspoiled”: Stage 1. For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “In verbal wars as well as physical ones, truth is the first casualty.” Jonathon Green, Words Apart: The Language of Prejudice 15 (1996).
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