The words that often send me to a digital dictionary are familiar words without their familiar prefixes. A perfect example was a in recent Wall Street Journal column by Peggy Noonan, who I would read just to absorb her writing style, whatever her politics. She was writing about Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
She’s inevitable? She was inevitable in 2008. Then, suddenly, she was evitable.
Like all good writers, Noonan keeps us alert with novelty—word selection is only one of those ways. “Inevitable” is a familiar word. We all know what it means. It is part of our daily vocabulary. But “evitable” brings us up short. It is not familiar. I even had to add it to my spell-check dictionary. We either have to figure it out, which we easily can, or look it up. It is the perfect word for a writer, unusual but not pretentious, not a “sesquipedalian,” as Bob Burger warns us about.
(“Inevitable” means unavoidable, a sure thing. “Evitable” means capable of being avoided.)