Alternative facts have been getting a lot of attention the last few years. It shouldn’t surprise us that the term alternative facts can be alternatively understood, since over time both words have had varied meanings.
The adjective alternative grew out of the Latin word alter, to change or make something different. Its origin is the Proto-Indo-European word *al-, which meant beyond. Alternative showed up in English in the 1580s, meaning offering one or the other of two.
When used in rhetoric during the 1600s, alternative meant a proposition of two statements, the acceptance of one implying the rejection of the other.
By 1970, alternative picked up the meaning purporting to be a superior choice to what is in general use.
The noun fact came from the Medieval Latin word factum, which translates literally to thing done. As time passed, Medieval Latin became Latin, & factum came to mean event, occurrence, deed, or achievement. When it made its way to English as fact in the 1530s, it meant anything done, though in usage, the anything done to which the word fact referred was usually an evil deed.
Well there's some alternative grist for the mill, eh?
Anything to say about all this? Please leave a comment or two in the comments section.
Big thanks to this week’s sources: Etymonline, Wordnik, Merriam-Webster, & The OED, & the image came from Vicki Shuck..
I write for teens, narrate audio books, bake bread, play music, and ponder the wonder of words in a foggy little town on California's central coast.
To receive weekly reminders of new Wordmonger posts, click on "Contact" & send me your email address.