Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Curious about Beat Etymology and Sick of Google's Amateurism, I Turn to the OED

Sometimes Google lacks authority. I went back to my miniaturized version of the Oxford English Dictionary to find the first use of beat as "the action of the feet upon the ground" and also the first reference to a "course habitually traversed by a watchman, sentinel, or constable on duty." Now I'm satisfied usage moved from cops to reporters and not vice versa. I'm pleased that the sense of the word in both usages is that beat reporting is an exercise in dogged routine, in using up shoe leather.

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