Today
Thu 3 December 2020

The UK, according to the latest polling, is now chiefly a Remain country. At the opposite end of Brexit spectrum, this week a handful of prominent Leavers performed a swift volte-face and decided to throw their full support behind Prime Minister Theresa May’s contentious Brexit deal.

All that makes the obscure but eminently useful word mentimutation a prime candidate for our inaugural Word of the Week.

Coined in 1650, by English-American pamphleteer Nathaniel Ward, mentimutation is built from the same Latin root as words like mental and mentality (namely Latin mens, ‘mind’), attached somewhat inelegantly to the noun mutation – here used in its earliest and weakest sense of merely ‘a change’ or ‘an alteration’.

Happily, Ward had the foresight not only to coin the mentimutation but also rementimutation (which we can presume refers to a repeated or renewed change of mind), as well as the criminally underused adjective versipellous (meaning ‘changeable’, or ‘having a form that appears to change often’).

And given how swiftly at least one prominent ERGer has abandoned his newly found admiration for Mrs May’s deal, either one of those could have made an equally appropriate choice this week too.

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