How could today’s Word Nerd blog be about anything other than the word debate, after last night’s “fisticuffs” between presidential contenders President Obama and Governor Romney.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary says the word debate comes to us from the Old French in the 14th Century, both as a verb and a noun. The 15th Century brought its usage as a formal dispute.

De- means “down, down from” and even “to the bottom, completely.”

Batter comes from batre, which comes from the Latin battuere, meaning “to beat, to strike.”

So a debate is all about beating down your opponent’s ideas.

Or striking down to the bottom of the issue at stake.

However you want to see it.

[My snap opinion after seeing the debate referred to as “fisticuffs”: Where are the fisticuffs? I enjoyed seeing some actual debate, rather than the usual joint-appearance-called-a-debate. I saw some vociferous speech and some disobedience to the time rules, but I saw no name-calling or even harsh words. Of course, I’m a former competitive debater, so maybe I’m skewed. Here’s an awesome video that explains why I feel this way. It’s short and well worth the view.]



WORD NERD CHALLENGE FOR THE WEEK: Find other words that come from battuere. I dare you!