To Crown and Not to Coronate – What’s so hard about a definition?

When I launch into researching something, I never know what I will find, but thanks to the Internet what I usually find is a great tide of information – exactly what I am after – How is it so, then, that something that should be very simple (such as a plain simple definition) shows up as a bun-fight on the Net?

In conversation with Greg a little while back, I referred to some aspects of the book I am working on. The scene is a coronation. I used the verb coronate and the past participle coronated which raised doubt from Greg that such a word existed. He had not heard it before. Coronation, yes, but not coronated.

It had not occurred to me that the word might be wrong. I felt familiar with it, had seen it, had read it in that context. However, as is my style, I thought I had better double check.

My own computer dictionary (spell-check) didn’t recognize coronated, but did accept coronate. The dictionaries on my bookshelf didn’t help, though. Neither The New Penguin English Dictionary nor The Macquarie Dictionary containing coronate or coronated. So I got onto the Net and went looking.

What I found was a surprising number of people who seemed appalled at the term coronate, coronates or coronated used in regard to crowning a sovereign. A coronation, it seems, crowns, it doesn’t coronate.

At least that’s how the argument looked. The verb coronate and its past participle coronated are more usually applied to flora and fauna and refer to a crown-like appendage or growth, as in “having” a crown.

Some stated that such terms were new additions sneaking in to current dictionaries, and wrong with regard to a monarchy.

Then along came the other side of the argument, that coronated is the past participle of coronare (Latin) meaning to crown [circa 1623]. Hardly a new addition.

*

The Oxford English Dictionary lists coronate as an obsolete past participle from the 15th and 16th centuries, and there was a reference cited of an even older king, William the Conqueror being coronate in London.

So, a bit of a mix and I can probably get away with it.

The weird thing about all this is that after two hours researching to find out if a word is correct or not (it’s usually much faster and simpler), I still don’t know if I should use the term.

It’s extra weird that I write science fiction, utilizing a nation of people (Khekarians) who stem from Earth’s ancestry (or Terrans do from theirs), and who thus are carrying forward developed ideas along the same or similar paths – a monarchy and its layers of hierarchy, officials, customs and rites. I say extra weird because it’s something depicted far in the future reaching back far into the distant past – it doesn’t have to be precise. It will have evolved. So, officially speaking, I can call it what I like.

It surprises me that people might be affronted by that use – I suspect because they tie it into the biological or zoological formality and think they are being precise, but that won’t help me tell the tale or use the language I wish to use. I could be on-the-nail accurate, but not to them if they don’t recognize its usage (obsolete or not).

I shall probably play it safe and refer to crowned, although that doesn’t sound very regal to me. I rather liked coronated.

It feels strange being right and wrong at the same time on exactly the same point. Like I said, weird.

By all means, if you have an opinion on this, jump in. I find it all rather fascinating.

Cheers all,

😀

Allyson

18 thoughts on “To Crown and Not to Coronate – What’s so hard about a definition?

  1. Uzoma

    Haha. This is one of the complexities of English language. Funny how a word you find in the English dictionary today becomes obsolete tomorrow. What becomes of people like me, who speak English as a second language?

    I use the “Wordweb” dictionary on my laptop. There, “coronation” is synonymous with “crown” which I believe is the same with other dictionaries. To this end, I was thinking of crown until I read it as the alternative in your post.

    My humble opinion? If it disturbs you a great deal because of the obsolete nature of “coronation” in its verb form, then go for crowned. For me, I think crown is modern, sort of. And since your novel series is a futuristic one, you might want to consider using “crowned.”

    Reply
    1. A.D. Everard Post author

      Hi Uzoma – Heehee, yeah, tricky those words. I don’t usually worry about offending anyone (as it’s impossible NOT to), but this one example did jump out at me as something many people would get wrong, and be convinced that I was the one who got it wrong. As I aim to be as precise as I can be with my research, this is one of those things that has to come under that – so it cannot be allowed to annoy.

      So, yes, I will stick with “crowned” and play safe (which annoys me, but that can’t be helped). LOL. Cheers! 🙂

      Reply
      1. Uzoma

        Aw, don’t you worry 🙂 I’m sure going with “crowned” won’t dilute the content or quality of your work.

        Your case reminds me of my usage of “bare” and “naked” in my story serial. I was so attached to “naked” until I found out that one cannot use it to describe an unclothed part of the body.

        Reply
  2. Uzoma

    Oh no … From the Oxford dictionary, it says that “naked” is more often used to describe a person or their body (not wearing clothes) and “bare” usually describes a part of the body.

    Do all writers worry? Of course, we do. It’s in our DNA. I think it helps bring out the best in us.

    Reply
    1. A.D. Everard Post author

      I think we worry about getting it “right”. I did think that expression such as “naked thighs”, “naked feet”, “naked arms”, etc., would be okay. Must admit, I haven’t looked that closely – I prefer “naked” over “bare”, too, but will use other words so as not to be repetitious.

      Now I’m wondering at that mega-sex scene halfway in book one (The Khekarian Threat) – I’m sure I used “naked” in that scene quite a lot (30 pages from start to finish, with a tiny meltdown and some anger in between).

      Oh well, no one has complained. 😛

      It might be more that we are reading someone’s opinion when we see rules and regulations. Writers are meant to use freedom of expression, not follow strict rules, after all. That’s my excuse, anyhow, and I’m sticking with it. 🙂

      Reply
      1. Uzoma

        “Writers are meant to use freedom of expression, not follow strict rules, after all. That’s my excuse, anyhow, and I’m sticking with it.” OH YES, I totally agree with what you said! I’ve observed that even bestsellers have one or two things which those who give writing tips or some editors do kick against.

        An engaging story is most important. For the minute aspects, which include writer preference of certain words, I think most readers like me tend to ignore them. I bet some readers are even oblivious of these semantics.

        I’ve not yet reached this mega-sex scene, but I trust it will be as explosive as is the story itself 😀

        Reply
        1. A.D. Everard Post author

          I agree with you. There is a huge difference between a text book and a story book. People want to be in the action or inside someone’s thoughts or words, not be dictated to or be remote from, so by its very nature a story has to be presented differently.

          You are right about the semantics – so I suspect we worry too much. At least half our readers would use the same words we prefer (I will undoubtedly give up on “coronated” but I’m definitely keeping “naked”. “Naked” is way too good to give up). 🙂

          Mega-sex scene – Well, you’ll know it when you arrive. It was both fun and tricky to write for reasons that you’ll see when you get there. 🙂 Greg now tells me that I have to have sex scenes in every book or readers will be disappointed. I also suspect that will be the main reason people will read the first book again (not that I mind that). Seriously, though, I do think it one of the high points of the story and one of the best scenes I have ever written, and NOT – believe it or not – because it has sex in it.

          I look forward to hearing your verdict when you get there. 🙂

        2. Uzoma

          I’m 100 percent with Greg, though I admit that writing a sex scene is as challenging as trying to pull off a humor story. If the situation in the story calls for sex (no matter what led to it), then let your readers have it. Personally, my best reads are all-round books. By that I mean book that have sex scenes (no matter how short) in them. No wonder I can’t get enough of an author like Jonathan Kellermann.

          I will talk more on this soonest. My laptop is showing low battery and I am out of town.

        3. A.D. Everard Post author

          No problem – I’m looking forward to a further chat.

          I’m of the opinion that if a sex scene needs to be there, then it should be there 100%. It’s one of those things a writer cannot afford to be shy about, or it will show. Either 100% in or not there at all.

  3. Uzoma

    “It’s one of those things a writer cannot afford to be shy about, or it will show. Either 100% in or not there at all.” No doubt about that, Allyson. A bad sex scene can ruin the entire story — makes even a good writer look amateurish at one glance.

    Back to your book. I think the inclusion of a sex scenes consummates the entire tale. It’s a natural thing as is any other activity therein, For the reader, it’s a change of atmosphere which sweetly takes their mind away from the action.

    So am I going to give my verdict of the sex scenes? Hmmm … I can’t wait to.

    Reply
    1. A.D. Everard Post author

      😀 😀 😀

      Great! Not sure about the “sweetly takes their mind away from the action” in this particular case, but tantalizing all the same.

      Have a wonderful evening/day/morning – whatever time it is for you. Cheers! 🙂

      Reply
        1. A.D. Everard Post author

          Ah, but you are quite correct. Other sex scenes (book two, for instance) have exactly that effect and helps lower the tension of other scenes.

          The fault lies in my sentence to you (the “Not sure about…”) – which was totally unfair because I know what the scene holds, and you don’t yet.

          😛 😛 😛

          I genuinely look forward to your thoughts, when you get there. 😀

  4. writingsprint

    That’s the fascinating thing about words. I love getting into the etymology. I vote “crowned,” since it’s clearer.

    The definition of “coronate” is “to crown” something, and the Latin origin of corona means “garland” or “crown” because that’s what they were putting on people’s heads. I think if you use “coronate” it becomes general enough that it could be anything going around the person’s head, like a halo. (I’m probably the only person who would think that, though I admit now I’m trying to dream up ways to write it. They were coronated by the force field…)

    Reply
    1. A.D. Everard Post author

      Ooh, I like it – sounds regal. 😀

      Yeah, I was surprised there was such contention, but better to see it now than to get objections once it’s in print, particularly within the context of an official coronation!

      Reply

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