In a language as verbally efflorescent as English, the inevitable excrescent lexical vegetation can be a cause of vexation. But would you respond with vetation? Is any deviation from strict verbal elegance unallowable in your books, and is invitation to exuberant expansions and neoclassical confections met with anathema?

Or perhaps lexical recreation is acceptable only in estivation and vacation. Well, far be it from me… unless you’re vacationing in my town, that is. But if you are, I’ll allow it. Which is to say, it will not be met with my vetation, even if the power of such should be vested in me.

Lest you have not guessed, vetation is, as the Oxford English Dictionary says, “a refusal to allow something.” It comes from Latin vetare, which means ‘forbid, prohibit, refuse to allow, oppose’. If you have been to Italy, you have seen its modern reflex: vietare, or more likely its past participle vietato, which shows up in signs that avail themselves of an emblematically Italian syntactic formation: vietato fumare, ‘forbidden to smoke’, meaning “no smoking,” and vietato l’ingresso, ‘forbidden the entry’, meaning “no entrance.”

But while vetation is well formed as a derivation from its Latin root into English, we have generally preferred to do a bad, bad thing, at least from the view of some sticklers: we have given our imprimatur to a conjugated form of the verb and made it into a noun. It’s the same kind of thing we did with imprimatur, which means ‘let it be printed’ (not as in ‘allow it to be printed’ but rather as in the third-person infinitive imperative that Latin uses a subjunctive for and that we have no really good way of expressing directly in English), and which we now use as a noun, as I just did. But in the case of vetare, we’re using the first-person singular present indicative, which is veto.

Yes, veto is Latin for ‘I forbid’ or ‘I advise not to’ or ‘I oppose’. We’ve taken a verb and we’ve nouned it. This is, depending in your particular bent, either elegant or inelegant. But the alternative, vetation, is longer and fussier and, depending on your bent, either more or less elegant.

Well, never mind. The decision has already been rendered in the legislature of popular opinion. The reason you’ve almost certainly never seen vetation before is that no one uses it. Even when it was used – in the 1600s through the 1800s – it wasn’t really used; as the OED puts it, it’s “apparently only attested in dictionaries or glossaries.” It is an inkhorn word, and we have, passively, tacitly, vetated it.

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