Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: The word news is an acronym formed from the words north, east, west, and south.
Origins: Some explanations are just too simple to accept. The notion that news — information about recent events — is the plural of the word new just doesn't sound right, so somebody cooked up the notion that the word is an acronym formed from the initial letters of the four cardinal compass points (north, east, west, and south), supposedly because news is information from all over the land.
It's not surprising this explanation sounds a bit odd to us, because new is an adjective and not a noun, so how can it have a plural form? Although adjectives don't generally have plurals in English, they do in other languages. In some Romance languages, for example, adjectives change to agree in number with the nouns they modify. So, in Spanish a white house is a casa blanca, but white houses are casas blancas. Likewise, in French a tall woman is a grande femme, but tall women are grandes femmes. When nouveau, the French word for new, modifies a plural (feminine) noun, it becomes nouvelles, which is also the French word for news.
Not so strange after all.
Last updated: 8 July 2007
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