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Unchartered what?

August 23, 2008 am31 5:28 am

Schools can be chartered (ugh). Companies can be chartered. Boats can be chartered. Helicopters can be chartered. Flights can be chartered. Companies can be chartered.

A course can be charted. Land can be charted. Water can be charted. The skies can be charted.

These are different words. A chart is a map. To chart something is to make a map of it. Mapped land. A mapped out course. By extension, to chart can mean to make a plan. Uncharted means unmapped or unplanned.

A charter is a contract, a guarantee of rights, something like a constitution for a club or company, or a lease of a vessel (boat, helicopter, airplane, etc). Unchartered means unleased, or operating without a charter (constitution) or without a charter (grant of rights).

Waters can be uncharted. That means unmapped.

A boat can be unchartered. That means unleased.

But unchartered waters? Huh? Can you make sense of that?

I wince when I hear my president mangle the phrases together. But it showed up in today’s Jay Cost analysis of the election. And a google search reveals one hit for the mangled version for every ten hits for the one that makes sense. Ugh. Don’t we think about what the words mean?

(is this called a malapropism?)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 23, 2008 am31 10:29 am 10:29 am

    I could imagine that if the US and Canada had treaties for the use and management of Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, Lake Huron, and Lake Ontario, but not Lake Superior, that might make Lake Superior unchartered waters. Heh.

  2. August 23, 2008 pm31 11:49 pm 11:49 pm

    Points for effort. But Jay Cost wrote:

    “Unfortunately, we’ve never had a previous presidential election where the structure is 1952 and the candidates are 1976. Bottom line: we’re in unchartered water here.”

    Hard to contort reasonable meaning out of that shy of just calling it a flub.

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