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Epicenter is an evolving word

Published: 2/4/2020 1:17:34 PM

In the old days, of which I am amply endowed, the only time I saw the word epicenter was in the context of an earthquake. In that usage, it referred to the region on Earth’s surface above the geological movement that had occurred some miles below. Those movements were along a line, hence the epicenter could not be considered to be geometrically precise.

In the past year, I have frequently seen and heard the word epicenter used in contexts where previously center would have sufficed for meaning and for accuracy. Fine. Word usage evolves. That’s why lexicographers provide citations for their definitions which thereby are “usages.”

Pity the lexicographer, editing the “e’s” who now finds Michael Weissenstein’s Associated Press article reporting an earthquake between Jamaica and Cuba. Published in the Jan 29 Gazette, he reports, “It hit at 2:10 p.m. and the epicenter was a relatively shallow 10 kilometers (6 miles) beneath the surface.”

Have we found a soul mate for Humpty Dumpty?

Norman Spencer


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