This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Sunday Rest: embargo. Word Not To Use Today.

I suppose the word embargo is meant to be aggressive and off-putting, so I'll have to give it full marks for fitness-for-purpose.

I can give it no marks at all, though, for elegance, for moonlit radiance, or for tripping fleetly off the tongue.


It's as if someone's put a heap if manure in the middle of a sentence. Quite, quite horrible.

An embargo started off being a ban on merchant ships visiting (or departing) a harbour, and then it became to be used for other sorts of legal prohibitions, like a ban on certain sorts of trade.

Nowadays it can even mean the seizure of goods for use by the state. (Hm. I'm having trouble working out the difference between that meaning and theft. But then I'm not a lawyer.)

As a writer, an embargo usually means not being able to tell anyone you've won a literary award before The Big Moment On Stage With The Exotically Coloured Envelope.

If you do win, you have to make a speech, and then carry the possibly huge trophy and a big bunch of flowers home on the train.

Just a slightly mixed blessing, that.

Word Not To Use Today: embargo. This word comes from the Spanish embargar, from the Latin barra, which is to do with barring things.


  1. I never realized embargo was used in the literary award sense.
    Doesn't seem quite fair does it.
    If you're good enough to win an award, then by golly you should be able to shout it from the rooftops. Damn it! :)

  2. Well, what a coincidence!! I am at this very moment EMBARGOED!! I will reveal all tomorrow but for now my lips are SEALED!

    1. Really? Well, I suppose if you can't, you can't, but how on earth am I going to be able to wait?

      News tomorrow as I have it!

    2. Well, I was hoping that at the least Adele had won the Nobel Prize, but apparently the embrago was on the cut-price sale of the Kindle edition of her novel Facing The Light.
      It's a jolly good read, and it can be found at