to vet

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Mon Mar 12 20:37:21 UTC 2012

It's popular because its short and can replace many longer phrases.

Sarah Palin says that President Obama wasn't properly "vetted" by the DNC
in 2008.

"Investigated"? "Evaluated"? "Questioned"? "Interviewed in depth"? "Asked
if he could name the head of the British government or locate Germany on a
world map?"

"Vet" covers all and more.

On Mon, Mar 12, 2012 at 2:51 PM, Baker, John <JBAKER at> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Baker, John" <JBAKER at STRADLEY.COM>
> Subject:      Re: to vet
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>         Yes, I think it's right that the verb "to vet" essentially entered
> American English in 1980 or so, although it was common in British and
> Canadian usage long before then and thus available to Americans who chose
> to use it.  The earliest example I see in an American source (from a search
> for "vetted or vetting") is in Safire's On Language column, 2 Nov 1980:
> <<Vetting
> "Twice in two weeks," complains Arthur Harris of Arlington, Vt., "Newsweek
> has used this verb 'vetting.' " Attached was a piece about a Ronald Reagan
> speech, including the comment: "His edited version was routinely retyped
> without further vetting."
> "I became enraged," fumes Holly Butler of Weston, Conn., "and scrawled all
> over the Op-Ed page of yesterday's New York Times." The page, attached,
> cited a submission to "the C.I.A. for official vetting." Expostulates Miss
> Butler: "Time and Newsweek happen to be the worst offenders so far ... Add
> this letter to a list you will keep of others who find the word offensive
> until identified and properly noted in dictionaries."
> Some dictionaries have it: Webster's New World defines the word as "to
> examine, investigate or evaluate in a thorough or expert way," adding that
> it is a colloquialism.
> The word comes from "veterinarian," which originated in the Latin from one
> who took care of old beasts of burden -the "vet" means "old," as any
> veteran wordsmith can tell you. In 19th-century England, the verb was used
> in scholarly circles in this way: "Have you had this manuscript vetted?"
> The meaning was: "Has this been examined thoroughly, as a veterinarian
> carefully goes over an animal?"
> The Briticism is in vogue use in America today, along with "early on" and
> "trendy," and shows the first signs of becoming more active and less
> passive: I've heard "Vet this for me." Soon we will hear of manuscript
> vetters, antique vetters, social-acceptability vetters, bed vetters, etc.
> If not overused, or tossed off with a lifted pinky, the word is a good
> substitute for "peruse," whose meaning has been changing from "examine" to
> "glance at." A more specific word is "edit," and a narrower command is:
> "Check this for factual errors." "Vetting" is a useful activity that
> deserves a special new name, and I welcome it; so does my pet, Peeve, and
> the copy editor who vets my prose.>>
>        Note that the term in 1980 was applied more to documents than to
> people.  I see a couple of examples in the modern American political sense
> from 1984, referring to the Reagan administration, but there are earlier
> foreign examples.  Notably, (London) Times Newspapers established a vetting
> committee to scrutinize would-be buyers; the committee ultimately approved
> Rupert Murdoch as the buyer in January 1981 (which some, subsequently, have
> seen as a failure of the vetting process).
> John Baker
> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf
> Of Dan Goncharoff
> Sent: Monday, March 12, 2012 1:19 PM
> Subject: Re: to vet
> I can only see a use referring to job candidates in 1987.
> DanG
> On Mon, Mar 12, 2012 at 11:17 AM, Jonathan Lighter
> <wuxxmupp2000 at>wrote:
> > ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> > -----------------------
> > Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> > Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
> > Subject:      to vet
> >
> >
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >
> > I've always found this verb a little curious and even annoying.  I
> > first encountered it in 1981. OED has it from Kipling in its current
> > sense and it's apparently been in British use steadily since then.  All
> the
> > cites are British or (evidently in one case ) Canadian.  The
> documentation
> > ends in 1978 and none are from the U.S.
> >
> > Since I first heard it, it's become part of the core political
> vocabulary.
> > Is it true that to "vet" (candidates, for example, or news reports, or
> > documents) only entered U.S. English around 1980?  Was there a
> particlular
> > "vet vector"?  (Presumably not "Lex Luthor," whose name I had to work in
> > here.)
> >
> > JL
> >
> > --
> > "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the
> truth."
> >
> > ------------------------------------------------------------
> > The American Dialect Society -
> >
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -
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> The American Dialect Society -

"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

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