Thursday, October 21, 2010




1 : to restore to a former better state (as by cleaning, repairing, or rebuilding)
2 : to restore to life, vigor, or activity : revive

As M-W's etymologist kindly points out, RENOVATE is part of a family of words suggesting an overhaul, all resting on the prefix re-. Some to wet your appetite:


All slightly different from the next, like the bin of kaiser rolls you peruse with one of those thin sheets of food-service-quality tissue paper, trying to find the most robust, crusty specimen. Anyhow, that's what I do.

But like snowflakes and kaiser rolls and remote controls, every above synonym is unique. So, let's talk about RENOVATE since that's what we're here for.

The above definition of RENOVATE specifically suggests a repair or rebuild with the intention of going back to a "former better state." If we're talking structurally (the context in which this word is most often used) the first thing I'd like to point out is that RENOVATIONS don't normally lead to a former state as much as they lead to a new, different, better state. One a building undergoes RENOVATIONS, it's not often to restore it to its past condition; the goal is to add/change/bring the structure up to a more modern/useful application. I question the use of the word "former" in this definition. Maybe I'm misinterpreting. Maybe M-W suggests former in a more abstract sense, as in, a former time when things were better. An former ideal. Not a former structure.

Moving right along...

Novate. I have never heard anyone use this word. I never considered the existence of this word until moments ago.

novate : to replace with something new

Okay. So, does that make RENOVATE a replacement of the replacement? Is there a group of people who novate buildings, only to be trumped by the RENOVATORS? Is this an underrepresented trade? Novation?

This is not to be confused with Novatian—the second antipope in papal history, broke from the Christian church circa 251 C.E. during the Novatian-Schism, with a group that condemned apostasy. Actual Roman name: Novatinus.

Let's take a moment to appreciate the word schism.

Novation is also a manufacturer of midi-controlers and various other DJ equipment. Their website claims that since their start in 1992, "the company name has become synonymous with world-class analogue modeling synthesizers and unrivaled midi-controller keyboards and solutions."

I suppose that's why the words novate and novation don't mean much in the field of building construction. Fancy digital keyboards have already cornered the market on that one.

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