A friend forwarded me an e-mail message from the Tufts Center for Animals and Public Policy about their Masters of Science in Animals and Public Policy program*. He had a feeling that one of the words in the message would raise my eyebrows a fraction. He was right. Here it is:

"You might like to know that we have completed a second year of rigourizing** our curriculum."


I have nothing against made-up words. All words, after all, are made up by someone at one time or another. This, however, is a particular type of made-up word that bothers me: it does not improve the sentence.

It's pretty clear that rigourize is inspired by the adjective rigourous. According to m-w.com, rigourous means manifesting, exercising, or favoring rigor: very strict. Tufts is making this program more rigourous; I can see that, but only after stopping at this new word, doing a quick translation, and returning to read the rest of the sentence.

In this case, the new construction murkifies the sentence, blockifying my comprehension. Instead, I would suggest:

"You might like to know that we have spent two years making our curriculum more rigourous."

And I do! I do like to know!

* Which sounds simply spanking! Here's an enticing description of the program (from the same e-mail message):

Tufts Center for Animals and Public Policy pursues research on the changing place of animals in society. Our Master of Science in Animals and Public Policy (MAPP) is an interdisciplinary degree in human-animal studies and public policy.

Human-animal studies is kin to environmental studies with a focus on wild or domestic animals in relation to nature and society. Our program is interdisciplinary with a curriculum that balances theory, methods, topics and research. We welcome students from the natural and social sciences, as well as the arts and humanities. We also give due attention to both qualitative and quantitative modes of research.

**His word absent from the dictionary or not, our Tufts author is not utterly alone: rigourize gets 7 hits in a Google search; rigorize, 1,150. Looks like the Americans are more likely to use it. Our author, I'm guessing from the ou spelling, is likely a Brit or Canadian living in the US, but I'll wager he's been there awhile.


richard said...

Hee hee.

As the forwarder, I think the program sounds fantastic; I'd be so interested in hearing more about it! But yes, that word, that word....

If I had a really top-drawer dictionary on hand I'd look up words like "diarize" to see their birth dates and trajectories, to see how unusual this construction is. My suspicion is that it's quite unusual, especially in the formal context it appears in here. In meaning it's very near "complexify," for example, and I wouldn't expect to see that relatively jokey word in a formal context.

Yes, yes, except in math, but really now, is that language as such?

Mr. Kite said...

My favorite invented word is strategical, which I guess is the root for strategically. But what's the difference between strategic and strategical?

richard said...

The second is a nickname for some guy named Al? Though Amazon has a whole lot of books with the word "strategical" in their titles....

Molly said...

Presumably they were incentivized to rigourize their program.

Anonymous said...

The program is a bunch of B-S.

I'm not at all surprised that they're now making up new words.

Don't waste your money on this useless Master of Science degree.