Today, I twice noticed, the the book I am reading, the verb transpire used to mean "happen" or "occur", as in "What transpired at the meeting?"
This usage grates on me. To my ear it seems wrong and, beyond that, seems a nose-in-the-air attempt to substitute a fancy latinate word for simple english (a malaprop, if you will). But the sources I just now checked are all over the lot: one can find it called improper, or proper, or problematical.
How do you folks feel about it?
I can't help but think of it as having something to do with botany, which it does, but in the proper setting, it can comfortably be used to replace occur or similar words. Indeed, if something extraordinary has happened, it would be most fitting, IMHO.
I like the word transpire. I use it frequently. It sure sounds better to these ears than "what happened" in certain situations.
I'm familiar with the botanical meaning "transpire" and in that sense it has been around since 1597 [OED amd M-W]. It comes from the Latin trans- +spirare, to breathe. It also came to mean "leak out, to become publicly known, to come to light". That is in keeping with the original meaning of the word; in a sense, when a plant transpires, water is "leaking" out of the leaves.
About 200 years ago, "transpire" began to be used as a synonym of "to occur" or "to happen" and was often used pretentiously. It is still used in that sense, despite wide-spread disapproval. Both the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (M-W) and the American Heritage Dictionary (AHD) have usage notes about using "transpire" meaning "to occur". The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) outright condemns this usage: "Misused for: To occur, happen, take place. Evidently arising from misunderstanding such a sentence as 'What had transpired during his absence he did not know'." In this sentence "transpired" means "leaked out", not "happened". There's a world of difference.
I don't particularly care for the "to occur" meaning of "transpire". For the most part it sounds pretentious and pompous. It doesn't sound pretentious in the sentence, "there is nothing new transpired since I wrote you last (Abigail Adams, 1775)", although "nothing has happened since..." sounds better to me. It does sound pretentious in, "the police drill will transpire under shelter to-day in consequence of the moist atmosphere prevailing". In fact, the whole sentence is wordy and pompous and should be taken out and shot. (Both these examples were taken from M-W.)
As an aside, notice I used the word "wide-spread". The AHD and M-W both list it as a single, unhypnenated word. The OED hyphenates it.
AHD - http://www.dictionary.com
Merriam-Webster OnLine - http://www.m-w.com
OED Online - http://dictionary.oed.com/
OED Online is a subscription service, but you can often access it for free through your local library. That's what I do.
"the police drill will transpire under shelter to-day in consequence of the moist
Ah, but my fellow Northweterner, it's the clouds that are transpiring! Sure, we usually just call it rain.
Dear oh dear! Typical "bureaucratese". Why not just say something like, "The police drill will be indoors today because of the rain."?
On such investigation all is said by The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Online at http://www.bartleby.com/)
For "transpire", the etymology in given as a french one and the usages are exactly the french ones : http://www.bartleby.com/61/36/T0323600.html
Just to annoye and irritate the board, like a frenchy obsessed lesson teacher (this guy is impossible !?) I beg your pardon, but just observe here that a "transpiration" is a "clarification" when the body is purified eliminating of urea, salt and fats. In its figurative sense of an hidden truth emerging, "transpiration" is rather an "elucidation".
See this exciting semantic controversy :
"Questions & Answers about Words / / To clarify or to elucidate ?"
Well, Safi, you win the award for the most fabulous graemlins! Amazing! Also, did you see that I gave in regarding my argument with you concerning the use of "elucidate" and "clarify"? You won that war! However, because I am a competitive sort, I plan to win the next one!
Shufitz, I hear "transpire" used a lot in offices describing what occurred at meetings. However, I had always learned that it was a misuse of the word. It is interesting to see dictionaries disagree on its use.
Kallah says, "I had always learned that it was a misuse of the word. It is interesting to see dictionaries disagree on its use."
Yes indeed -- proving that dictionary-writers are mere human beings; they do not issue "truth" from the mouth of God. I recently came about a lovely quotation that encapsulates this: