indict, indite

indict (shakespeare)

 

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS

  

Although both words have the same Latin root, dico, meaning to speak. and are pronounced the same, they have developed quite different meanings. To indict someone is to charge him with a crime, formally or in writing. To indite is to compose or write, usually something nice.

In Shakespeare’s time, to indite was to write an invitation, obviously to something more inviting than an indictment. As Benvolio said teasingly when the “good, sweet” Nurse asked about Romeo:  She will indite him to supper.

Incidentally, indictments nowadays are handed up, decisions are handed down.

 

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The Writer's Stylebook is a unique collaboration between two former journalists -- my father, Lawrence, and me. Mr. Fellows, an impassioned wordsmith and journalist of long standing, created the original Stylebook, which he distributed to Connecticut newspapers and worked on for over a decade until his death 16 years ago. In 2003, the Connecticut Press Club published "Wordwatch: A Writer's Guide to Linguistic Distinctions," a compendium of nearly 300 of my father's word features. Unfortunately, that book is out of print and my father's features have been languishing in the attic of our family home in Westport -- until now. With the blessing of my mother, Ruth, I'm reviving the Stylebook and putting it online in the hope that it will find new readers. I think there's a need for a lively, illustrated guide to words and word usages that isn't wordy -- especially in today's fast-paced world!

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