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Thanks for the clarification. This is certainly the best defense for the irksome 'utilize' that I've ever seen. It does sort of suggest that the word may be developing its own meaning, and perhaps one day the bastard child of the self-aggrandizing and their own poor language will grow up to be a solid, honest part of any respectable vocabulary.

For the time being, though, I think even the example you quote shows that 'use' and 'utilize' are functionally the same word. The sentence with the teachers is just an ambiguous statement. Maybe a little bit of the ambiguity can be resolved in the verb choice, but no matter which word you choose, you still need context to clarify. If the sentence preceding the example were 'Our tuition was wasted on our fucking Luddite teachers,' the meaning is nice and clear, regardless of whether you then follow with 'use' or 'utilize'. Similarly, if the sentence after the example were 'The Amish kids just looked at their mentors with terror in their eyes,' the inherent vagary of the example vanishes, whether you use 'utilize,' or you utilize 'use.'

In any case, I'm not as much of a prig as I sounded at the party, or in the last paragraph. I love new words, and applaud the inexorable march of language into the future. I'm quite proud, for instance, that a British interviewer recently credited me with coining all three of these adjectives in the space of a half hour: balladiful, superdifficult, and soppy-pants. My point, the other night, was just that I like when new words are born of a desire to say new things, instead of a desire to inject stuffy pretension into one's statements. The guy who invented 'utilize' was clearly an asshole.



soppy-pants, is quiet mabey the best word ive heard this week

i age that utilize is made redundent by use..i dont think ive ever used the world utilize...mabey cause im a simple person


damian, you leave the amish out of this... my vocabulary is lacking, so before my visit to dictionary.com i thought you two were discusing how to utilitze (definition 3 b of utility) an office (hey, office and officious have five of the same letters, anyone could of made that mistake... right?!?) well, now that i've used all the existing words in my vocab and embarrassed myself, i shall leave having contributed nothing to the argument...


Damian, if your day job doesn't go so well in the future (and I really hope that your day job never fails because that would be a vile day for us all), you should become my English teacher.

So much for my clever comment . . . ha.


origin of use:[Middle English usen, from Old French user, from Vulgar Latin usare, frequentative of Latin uti. N., Middle English from Old French us, from Latin usus, from past participle of uti.] (from dictionary.com)

origin of utilize:[French utiliser, from Italian utilizzare, from utile, useful, from Latin utilis, from uti, to use.] (also from dictionary.com)

now, at this period in time, the two terms may indeed be completely synonymous, but utilize came into english through italian for useful as well as the expected french. use only came through french and latin, although the original latin verb is the same in both cases. therefore, unless the italians are particularly pompous, i do not see any reason for hating utilize and liking use. they both came through different origins, it is the same as synonyms from the latin and german roots of english.
also, I would like to point out a note from the entry on use- "Utilize is especially appropriate in the narrower sense of making something profitable or of finding new and practical uses for it: Waterpower was once widely utilized to generate electricity." therefore, i believe utilize has an unbelievably narrower meaning deriving from its italian ancestor meaning useFUL.

however, nowadays all this persnickity-ness is probably all for nothing because the difference is too slight to consider and Damian probably is right, that in today's society having two separate words is useless.

I would also like to point out that if you were writing an essay and used the word use excessively it would probably be useful to have an easy synonym so as not to SOUND redundant, even if you really are.

wow. I too appear to be a language geek. hooray.


shades of blue

Damian, as a lyricist, you do REALIZE that you can UTILIZE the pronunciation and syllable count in "utilize" differently than the pronunciation and syllable count of "use?"

I'm a poet and I didn't know it!
HOoKD oN PHoNIkz w0Rckd fer mE! ;D


I use utilize alot...ha... but only in Physics/Organic chem lab reports when im supposed to sound semi pretenious. Theres a word... semi... for some reason i use that word (actually its only part of a word) alot. As in Joel plasket looks semi like Damian from ok go... not really... just about 35 %.


I as well am a lover of words. I totally agree with you that the word "utilize" is a crap word. It does sound really stuffy when someone says it and they sound like a newsman.
so good luck in your fight to discontinue the "use"(haha) of "utilize"!


I believe the word utilize is a valid, seperate, word from use and completely agree with Margaret's arguement. Being a Latin vocabulary nerd, I would just like to add one thing to Margaret's point.

If you actually look at the Latin roots of the two words it may help. Dictionaries tend to not make distinctions between the latin root of the word you are interested in and the latin root of the word that is actually the latin root.

Use's root is indeed uti which mean 'to use' .

Utilize's root is also ultimately traced to uti, but the important thing is the actual latin root of the word utilize is utilis which means 'useful, advantageous, helpful'.

This may seem nitpicky but it's important. In Latin, no matter what ending you were to place on uti, it could never mean exactly the same thing as utilis. You would not use uti when you meant useful and you would not use utilis when you meant use.

Therefore, a word which is derived from utilis and not from uti is not simply another word for 'use' and is still a useful word in it's own right with an entirely different definition.

I'm just sayin'.


Yet again I get to blame something on Gutenberg. Modern english did not, unlike other languages, have hundreds and hundreds of years to evolve as a primarily spoken language for the general public and get fine tuned. I mean the printing press pops up and we are locked into spellings and weird grammar rules and silent letters and useless synonyms...
I mean if we didn't have a written record and dictionaries and thesauruses there would be a sort of Darwinian culling of our language and we would not have words like utilize.


Margaret, do I remember correctly that you were among the partying debaters? If so, you may remember that the larger topic at hand was that of synonyms, and I kept drunkenly asserting that they don't really exist, except briefly when languages collide, before general use distinguishes them. (Then we got on to the near-synonymns that pop up when people spontaneously shellac their normal words with pomp.) Anyhow, there's no question that I was overstating the case, as I am inclined to do in general (and even more when drunkenly pontificating), but inspired by your diligent research into use/utilize, I went and found the passage from the Steven Pinker book (The Language Instinct, pg 157) that got me started on my rant:

Though most common words have many meanings, few meanings have more than one word. That is, homonyms are plentiful, synonyms rare. (Virtually all supposed synonyms have some difference in meaning, however small. For example, skinny and slim differ in their connotation of desirability; policeman and cop differ in formality.) No one really knows why languages are so stingy with words and profligate with meanings, but children seem to expect it (or perhaps it is this expectation that causes it!)...

... If a child already knows a word for a kind of thing, then when another word is used for it, he or she does not take the easy but wrong way and treat it as a synonym. Instead, the child tries out some other possible concept. For example, Markman found that if you show a child a pair of pewter tongs and call it a biff, the child interprets biff as meaning tongs in general, showing the usual bias for mid-level objects, so when asked for "more biffs," the child picks out a pair of plastic tongs. But if you show a child a pewter cup and call it a biff, the child does not interpret biff as meaning "cup," because most children already know a word that means "cup," namely cup. Loathing synonyms, the children guess that biff must mean something else, and the stuff the cup is made of is the next most readily available concept. When asked for more biffs, the child chooses a pewter spoon or pewter tongs.

This, of course, says nothing about the use/utilize debate. Regardless of origin, one camp says they connote slightly different actions, the other (mine) says they connote the same action but with a different speaker's tone; in any event, we all agree they aren't perfect synonyms.

But who knew that the LA Weekly Style Council was the hotspot for such ridiculous pedants? Go nerds, go.


of course we would probably have words like subliminable


Jessica, the printed word hasn't stopped English from growing. The continuing fluidity of language was, in fact, the overarching subject of the drunken discussion which began all of this. How irrational it is: it pains me to no end to see "impact" used as a verb nowadays, even though I love seeing "google" as one.


Well, naturally, since "google" is quite possibly one of the best verbs.


Ahem. Fluidity? Perhaps the word most appropriate here, and the one undoubtedly on the tip of your proverbial tongue which you abandoned in your haste to comment, would be mutability.

But I do so commend your noble effort!

(Philologists always give me a tickle in my knickers.)


Damian, or any other word lover, knows that English is a living language, words develop/expand/become more adapt at expressing a specific feeling, sentiment or expression. Utilize versus use is just as cumbersome, but perhaps as necessary as the words hostage and captive, or any other combination of similar words that are easily replaced. English is one of the most word-rich languages in the world and there has been some overlap in said developing words. Why bark on someone who chooses one word over another to express the same idea?

Saying that the person who came up with the word utilize was an asshole is nothing short of a scandal for any word lover. You know who really is a prick? The person who came up with the 17th word for snow in the Inuit language, sixteen was just fine… but then someone had to go and mess everything up by adding a 17th word for the same goddamn thing.

What is even more of a problem is the people who have ‘tribulations’ with peoples’ vocabulary use in the first place. Grammar is one thing, but to pick on someone’s poor word choice is just cruel. It’s not their fault that they are subjected to the standards of the American educational system. So, if someone wants to use the word utilize because they don’t know that ‘use’ sounds less ‘assholeish,’ they are obviously a product of the system and should not be made fun of on blogs, Damian.

But then there are the people, who use grandiose words that sound impressive, but most often these words are used just to make other people think the user is erudite. If the SAT word is a better fit for the sentence you are trying to create, then by all means use it. But, Damian, was officious really more effective than bossy? Or are you just trying to demonstrate your own self-worth and importance in the literate community? Was impressing the people at the cocktail party going to make you sleep better at night?

karleigh the fabulous

I think I'm the only person who was thinking that I was a complete idiot for not utilizing the word utilize in place of use in all those AP essays I had to write in High School.
So, basically, you can always replace the word utilize with the word use but you can only replace the word use with utilize sometimes. Gah, this sounds like some bizarre IQ question.
BTW, ? and the Mysterians utilized the play on words between the name Question MARK and the symbol Question MARK. But it's of no real importance since they were only one hit wonders with "96 Tears," and the lead singer, ?, is now some insane guy obsessed with aliens.


you can use "utilize" instead of "use" depending on what form of "use" you're using *hahaha*
From the website Thesaurus.com:

Main Entry: use
Part of Speech: noun
Definition: application
Synonyms: account, adoption, advantage, appliance, applicability, appropriateness, avail, bag, benefit, call, capitalization, cause, convenience, custom, employment, end, exercise, exertion, fitness, good, habit, handling, hang-up, help, helpfulness, kick, mileage, mobilization, necessity, need, object, occasion, operation, point, practice, profit, purpose, reason, relevance, service, serviceability, shot, thing, treatment, usability, usage, usefulness, utility, value, way, wont, worth

Main Entry: use
Part of Speech: verb
Definition: work with
Synonyms: accept, adopt, apply, bestow, capitalize, consume, control, do with, draw on, employ, exercise, exert, exhaust, expend, exploit, govern, handle, make do, make use, make with, manage, manipulate, operate, play on, ply, practice, put forth, regulate, relate, run, run through, spend, utilize, waste, wield, work

so you can substitute "use" with "utilize" when "use" is used in a sentence as a verb.


In defense, I neither condemned the use of any word, nor haughtily used the word "officious" in a blog. I did both while drunk at a party, where I had no idea one of the many people I was offending happened to be a professional blogger. I have weakly defended my pedantic argument here, but I agree, Selena-Renee, that only a real asshole would actually put much stock in any of this... but it is kind of fun to debate.

For the record, I prefer "assholic" to "assholeish"


Shades- alot is not a word, it is A LOT- separate. While we're on the topic...

Angela Poe

I have always been fond of the nauseous vs nauseated arguement.

Word usage gripes should be limited to MISUSED words. Take my example above: nauseous vs. nauseated. In most cases, the common person would say that if they felt the sensation that normally precedes vomitting, they would say they were nauseous. This is simply not the correct use of the word. In fact, one would say that they had a nauseous stomach or that they felt nauseated. In this case, one could feel somewhat justified in correcting the person with whom one was conversing simply to request further information. "Did you mean you had a nauseous stomach? That you felt, nauseated?" would be an appropriate question to ask to ascertain the meaning of the other speaker's statement AND to drive home the meaning of the two words being used. In this case, correct word use supercedes pretention. I had this same discussion with my roommate who was an English Literature major at Princeton University and I, a mere drop-out from Drexel University in the Music Industry program, corrected her which would dictate that correct word use does not come directly from ones education, but rather the specific set of conversations, course studies, life experiences, discussions and corrected test papers that would lead one to discover when to use utilize and when to use nauseous.

I cannot fault Damian for trying to use "S.A.T. words" at a cocktail party in Los Angeles; one does need to occupy oneself amongst the vapid, blond plastic people and smog-ledites. Perhaps his behavior looks smug to those who don't EVER try to use their extensive vocabularies to get ahead. Here on the east coast, it's another story. I'm not trying to start an east coast/west coast feud or anything, I'm just saying that I doubt this would have been the topic of a blog written by those writing the Arts and Leisure section of the New York Times.

In the future, let's try to behave as Damian does by adding interesting new words expressing new ideas to our cocktail party conversations. But let's leave our I-know-more-than-you word use discussions at home. It's like John Ondrasik from Five For Fighting once said, "... you've only got 100 years to live."


angela: you're a genius. i will treasure the word "smog-ledites" until the day i die. that's fucking brilliant.

and i love that you busted this out: "I doubt this would have been the topic of a blog written by those writing the Arts and Leisure section of the New York Times."


selena: good points. one quibble: the whole 17 words for snow thing is a total myth. you don't have to be inuit to intuit that.

karleigh: really? what happened to that dude? is he obsessed with aliens and totally crazy, or obsessed with aliens in a thom yorke kind of way?


Damian, I agree with you. When people use the word "utilize" or other bigger-word-sounding synonyms, they generally are doing so because the thesaurus on their word processor told them to or so that they sound smarter.

Much like the pricks who invented the word "floccinaucinihilipilification"


in the department of long and absurd words, here's the real name of a welsh town. admittedly, it'a a name, but it's still a pretty impressive word:


check out the four serial L's...

you're all crazy

I recall having the same arguement with one of my peers a while back. After completing her college admittance essays, the word "use" no longer existed in her mind. She insisted on using "utilize" to sound more eloquent, when instead she sounded like a verbose ASS.

"Excuse me sir, MAY I UTILIZE THE STAPLER?!?"

please eradicate this ridiculous word from the dictionary and use its more concise three letter counterpart.

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