18 April 2012
Usage Wednesday: Reconnoiter
This morning I received my first Usage Wednesday request. This makes me very happy. Jess, this usage error's for you!
To look at the word "reconnoiter" is to see Latin roots screaming at you. Eighth grade foreign language class taught us that "conocer," "connaître," and "conoscere" are cognates that mean "to know." More specifically, you use these words when talking about knowing people. Thus, to your average SAT taker and adult person, "reconnoiter" looks like it most likely means "to re-meet-up" or something like that. Re-know-people. But that's not what it means at all!
"Reconnoiter" is a word I heard maybe twice in my life before hearing it a million times in the Deadwood season 1 episode, "Reconnoitering the Rim." Without purposefully giving too much away, the plot follows a man who has just bought a plot of land that's hopefully full of gold he can prospect. He has to walk the circumference of his property to get familiar with it, and they refer to the walk as "reconnoitering the rim." This makes sense because "to reconnoiter" means "to make a preliminary inspection of, especially in order to gather military information" (according to the American Heritage Dictionary). And so
Reconnoiter = to observe or inspect something in order to gather information
Reconnoiter ≠ to meet up with people later
You could even buy the episode on Amazon, if you wanted. Or just reconnoiter the internet and you'll find it somewhere else.