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It’s Come to This

Six years ago, when we first brought to your attention the emergence of curate as a synonym for select, I never would have imagined that we as a society could reach the point at which a chief of police would—without irony, mind you—utter the following: “I think some of us were a bit surprised by not only the level of preparation that we saw, but the equipment that was curated and worn by those individuals, along with a large amount of equipment that was left in the [truck] when the stop happened.”

It beggars belief.

This, dear reader, is why you should care about the words you use. Curate has become so embedded in our vernacular that it no longer means what it used to. And that transition—from a field of study to a pretentious way of saying “here’s a list of things”—was wholly unnecessary.

Think about it: If we remove the phrase “curated and” from the above quote, do we lose anything?

I think some of us were a bit surprised by not only the level of preparation that we saw, but the equipment that was worn by those individuals, along with a large amount of equipment that was left in the [truck] when the stop happened.

No. We lose nothing.

But if you feel so strongly that including the selection process is somehow vital to understanding the menace these knuckleheads presented, then sure, say something like this:

I think some of us were a bit surprised by not only the level of preparation that we saw, but the equipment those individuals chose to wear, along with a large amount of equipment that was left in the [truck] when the stop happened.

Is it stronger? Maybe. I’m not sure most listeners to the chief’s news conference would notice the distinction, but I could be wrong.

So why do people insist on using curate incorrectly? Either ignorance or the desire to sound smarter than they actually are. The former isn’t anyone’s fault; the latter is a choice. Here’s hoping Chief Wright just doesn’t know any better.



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