Has the meaning of _apologist_ changed?

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jan 19 04:06:46 UTC 2012

Here are two unverified matches in 1999 in which former President
Clinton was labeled an "apologist". The meaning seems to be
"apologizer". The title of the article dated November 27, 1999 below
uses the word. (Of course, many individuals concerned with verbal
precision would reject using "apologist" as a synonym for

The Washington Times : From the apologist in chief
Washington Times - Nov 27, 1999
He just can't help himself. When Bill Clinton steps foot on foreign
soil, he feels an urgent need to apologize for America's past
"misdeeds. ...

The Washington Times: Prelude to a new cold war?
Washington Times - Jun 13, 1999
Even after several rounds of apologies by US Apologist-in-Chief Bill
Clinton, Beijing's initial refusals to believe the bombings were not
unintentional ...

In 2004 a book titled "The apologist" by Jay Rayner was released. Here
is a description.

[Begin excerpt]
Marc Bassett has a reputation as a pitiless restaurant critic. When he
writes a devastating review of a particular establishment, the chef
commits suicide, roasting himself in his own fan-assisted oven, with
Basset's reviewed pasted to the door. Suddenly Bassett is moved to do
something he has never done before: apologise. After a series of
virtuoso expressions of regret, word of Bassett's mollifying power
spreads, and he is invited to become Chief Apologist for the United
Nations. His job is to travel the globe in his own Gulfstream V
private jet, apologising for everything from colonialism to
exploitation and slavery. It is a role that brings him fame, wealth
and access to a lot of very good chocolate.
[End excerpt]

Here is a 2013 movie title that may be using apologist to mean apologizer.

[Begin excerpt]
The Apologist (2013)
Not yet released

In an effort to fix his broken life, a depressed man seeks out the
girl he humiliated in high school in order to make amends.
[End excerpt]

The first sense given for apologist in Wiktionary seems to allow
apolgizer. Indeed, the term "apologizer" is given as a synonym for
"apologist". (Note that I am citing Wikitionary as a sample of word
use and not as a traditional "authority".)

[Begin excerpt]
apologist (plural apologists)
1. One who makes an apology.
2. One who speaks or writes in defense of a faith, a cause, or an institution.

(one who makes an apology): apologizer, apologiser
[End excerpt]

It is possible that the Wikitionary definition was based on the
Webster's 1913 definition.

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913 + 1828)

[Begin excerpt]
Apologist (Page: 69)
A*pol"o*gist (#), n. [Cf. F. apologiste.] One who makes an apology;
one who speaks or writes in defense of a faith, a cause, or an
institution; especially, one who argues in defense of Christianity.
[End excerpt]

On Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 10:11 PM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at gmail.com> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Has the meaning of _apologist_ changed?
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 9:52 PM, Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at gmail.com> wrote:
>> He
>> was probably reflecting on Romney's claim (that had been adopted from
>> radio talk shows) that Obama had gone on an Apology Tour and thought
>> "apologist" sounded good.
> Precisely my own analysis. We probably should pray that _apologist_
> doesn't come to be understood as "one who makes an apology." It could
> happen.
> Youneverknow.
> --
> -Wilson
> -----
> All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint
> to come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
> -Mark Twain
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list