Verb of the Week - Deem

Verb of the Week - Deem

By Donna Ambler on 30 September 2014

I'm on my soap box this week about the use of words that people write when they would never dream of speaking them. I'm talking about words with origins dating back centuries that just aren't part of today's language. They are the words I cut very quickly when I'm trying to edit a document into plain English.

This time it's the verb deem. When was the last time you used it? I don't think I've ever felt the need. It's simply antiquated and I shiver when I see people write it.

The instance I came across last week was in a document calling for funding submissions. The example was "If the works are deemed unsatisfactory, the final payment may be withheld...". Words such as deem are like a red rag to a bull when I'm editing. Can't the works just be unsatisfactory? Why do they have to be deemed? And this was in a document that had been described to me as a "simple EOI". When the form itself was only a one-pager, I argued that that we didn't need a 10-page document to explain how to fill out the one-page form.

According to Merriam-Webster, the origin of deem is the middle English demen, from Old English dēman; akin to Old High German tuomen to judge, Old English dōm doom. Its first known use is before the 12th century. Its definitions are:

  • to come to think or judge, as in to consider
  • to have an opinion, as in to believe.

In my case, I deemed the verb deem inappropriate! And I can't be convinced otherwise.




Category: General

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