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Word Wisdom: Scrutinize

The latest inspirational column from Rev. Dr. John Kreutzwieser
Word Wisdom

Every week I send a draft of these Word Wisdom articles to Patti so she can scrutinize my ideas and grammar. She usually has some comments to make and various suggestions for improvement. I offer her thanks and give her acknowledgement for the scrutinizing.

Scrutinize comes from Latin scrutari, which means to search, to examine. Scrutari likely came from scruta, meaning trash. The etymology suggests one who searches through trash for anything of value. I hope this in no way implies my articles may be designated as trash until Patti discover something of value in them.

The noun scrutiny preceded scrutinize in the English language. In the 15th century scrutiny referred to a formal vote, in the sense that a surveillance or formal watch was done to determine that only those qualified were permitted to vote. The nobles had a scrutiny to determine who would approach the king with their issues.

The word later morphed into an official examination of the votes. The scrutiny was held to verify the results of the voting for leadership of the group.

A scrutineer was one who takes or counts the votes. The scrutineer was charged with the responsibility for the scrutiny. This term is still used today for those who watch the voting procedures on election day.

Scrutinize was used in the 17th century as a verb meaning to examine closely in reference to voting. Eventually, scrutinize came to be used to examine anything closely and minutely. During the chess match I closely scrutinized my opponent’s every move. After certain reports came to the office, her performance was carefully scrutinized by her employer.

Scan, inspect, examine, and scrutinize all mean to look at or over but with slightly different nuances.

Scan implies a surveying from point to point, suggesting cursory overall observation. He scanned the wine list at the restaurant for his favourite grape.

Inspect suggests looking for errors or defects. She inspected the credentials of the officer knocking at the door.

Examine stresses paying attention to determine the nature, condition, or quality of a thing. He examined the specimens that were sent to the laboratory for testing.

Scrutinize means to pay close attention to minute details. After we go through the checkout but before we leave the grocery store, I scrutinize the bill to verify all the deals we were supposed to get for certain products that day.

Life is a very interesting chain of events that often does not move according to plan. The week I use a word that describes the normal help Patti gives to me when writing the Word Wisdom columns, she is not involved in the process. She has been very busy with the Moose Jaw Band and Choral Festival and so was not available to scrutinize my rough draft of the article on Wednesday night. So, the ‘trash’ I usually forward to her on Wednesdays has not been examined to the quality I, and you, may be accustomed to. Maybe do not scrutinize this article too closely. A scan might be preferable.

John would like to know if anyone has a sincere interest in a relevant word that he could possibly research for an upcoming column. If so, please send your requests to Words will be selected according to relevance and research criteria. We cannot confirm that all words will be used.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication. 


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