Should I have an aversion to "aver?"

bibliolept

Senior Member
AE, Español
I use "aver,' mostly in writing rather than in conversation. Does it sound too archaic?
What is your gut-feeling, regarding the percentage of people that might understand the word and whether you think it is too pretentious or affected?
 
  • zazap

    Senior Member
    Canada, French and English
    Well, in context I would totally understand it, but I would never use that word (unless I was doing a translation and had just found it in the dictionary and thought it sounded nice). I think it's a good word. Let's see what the others have to say!
     

    heidita

    Banned
    Germany (German, English, Spanish)
    "I won't aver that the meaning will not be understood by most AE speakers, but I don't believe that this is common usage."
    Jesus, Biblio! Very interesting question. I misunderstood so completely that I even thought that I was on the English-Spanish forum!

    Very interesting indeed. And I didn't know this word at all, never heard it . I have lived in England, so I wouldn't know in America.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I would put aver in the same class as adumbrate and abrogate.
    It doesn't sound archaic, but it is not used very often. There are four in the British National Corpus; 685 asserts.

    There would probably be an occasion when it would be the absolutely perfect word to use. If so, and if I could be sure that my audience would read or hear and not stumble, I would use it. Otherwise I would avoid it.

    Strange, for such a little word.

    I forgot to comment on the pretentious/affected point.
    That wouldn't occur to me unless the context happened to be so obviously inappropriate. In other words, if I read aver in an official memo on Monday, that will be fine.
     

    Trisia

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Perfectly comprehensible in given context. Can't say that I remember ever seeing it before, and certainly did not know the meaning.

    I would probably not use it in a normal text, but it sure sounds cool enough to use in an essay for school :D
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    I like simple words and pretty words that are simple. I like words that some writer magically blends together to make a verbal tapestry.

    This word looks like a mispelled version of ever.

    It's not that I hate it, and I would be impressed if reading it in an academic paper.

    But if I heard it in everyday speech and writing, I'd wonder why the person using it was trying so hard.

    And no, until now, I've never heard or seen it.


    AngelEyes
     

    lablady

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    I am quite familiar with both the word and its meaning - mostly because of my puzzle addiction. :D It's a very common word in the crossword puzzles I solve.

    I don't usually hear or see it in any other aspect of my day-to-day life. I don't think to use it myself, however, if I see it written or hear it spoken, I don't think it particularly odd.
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    Okay! For some reason when you just posted the pronunciation of the word, my mind clicked on the past tense of it: averred.

    I've seen that and heard of that. I might have even used this before.

    Why in the world didn't I recognize your word?

    I can't recall ever seeing it used in the present tense. Could it be BE/AE differences again?

    AngelEyes
     

    river

    Senior Member
    U.S. English
    Aver appears on my son's high school freshman level vocabulary list: state to be true; affirm confidently; assert; opposite of deny. So I suspect that many have been exposed to the word, but I doubt that many retain it.

    I'd expect to see it in a legal context: Two witnesses aver that the suspect tried to intimidate them, but he continues to deny that charge or The witness averred he had seen the defendant at the scene.

    I could also see "President Bush averred that he would make things right."
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think I can count on the fngers of one hand the number of times I have come across this word. The last time was in a legal text, and as I recall the meaning was either "to object" or "to assert". I can't see myself ever using it in conversation.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It occurs memorably in the Ancient Mariner, Biblilept:

    And I had done an hellish thing,
    And it would work 'em woe :
    For all averred, I had killed the bird
    That made the breeze to blow.

    And more than once.

    I may have a soft spot for it for that reason. I would regard it as just a bit bookish, perhaps slightly legal language, but not affected or pretentious. In your place I wouldn't hesitate to go on using it. It's short and to the point.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    It's a fine word for Scrabble®. I would use it in formal writing, not speech. It's in my passive vocabulary, never spoken, rarely written.
     

    anothersmith

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    It's common in the legal field. Since I'm a lawyer, I've seen and heard it a lot in the course of my work. I rarely come across it outside of the legal field, except in crossword puzzles or older works of literature.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    "Aver" sounds to me like the writer is being pretentious or pompous (or both).

    Now that I have said that, I use the word "cumbrous" in place of "cumbersome" quite often. They mean the same thing. I don't know why I do it other than to be pretentious, pompous (or both).
     

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    I thank you for your help during my little crisis of vocabulary conscience. Perhaps aver is not so much an albatross and deserves to be thought of in kindlier terms. I'll be glad to hold onto it for at least a few more years: I would miss its exotic frisson on the rare occasions that it gets called in off the bench to play for a few minutes.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Well, you could use my "keystroke defense". "Aver" saves at least one or two keystrokes over any synonym.

    This is my defense when using "cumbrous" vs "cumbersome".
     

    jonmaz

    Senior Member
    English-Australia
    If ever I were appointed to the Committee for the Contraction of the English Language, aver would be prominent on my scrap heap list; that I aver.
     

    Gorgiewave

    Senior Member
    Scotland, English
    Aver sounds like nomenclature, indigence, ratiocination etc. Anybpdy who says aver in earnest is either attempting humour or doesn´t understand the tone of the word. Yes, it sounds pompous or unnnescessarily formal.
     

    liliput

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    I think I can count on the fngers of one hand the number of times I have come across this word. The last time was in a legal text, and as I recall the meaning was either "to object" or "to assert". I can't see myself ever using it in conversation.
    I think I could have counted them on one finger before reading this post!
     

    coiffe

    Senior Member
    USA
    American English
    Gorgiewave is exactly right, and I read through all the posts to find it. I remember Dan Ackroyd using "aver" in a hilarious parody -- he wrapped his lips around the word and spoke it with enormous gravity and self-importance. I could easily see the word used in a Monty Python sequence.
     

    Arrius

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    When I saw it in the thread title I thought it must be the Catalan or Provençal for to have, but it is pretty well known and not just from The Ancient Mariner. I would use it only in writing and then only in a jocular vein.
     

    ratel

    New Member
    France, Parisien (du Sud-Est)
    We did have avérer in French too, but it's about lost except in participe and rarely infinitive forms, and in the reflexive. I would have used aver without hésitation, probably did actually, good thing this thread came along.
    Still, it could be useful as a performative less vigorous than swear and more than affirm, couldn't it ???
     

    coiffe

    Senior Member
    USA
    American English
    We did have avérer in French too, but it's about lost except in participe and rarely infinitive forms, and in the reflexive. I would have used aver without hésitation, probably did actually, good thing this thread came along.
    Still, it could be useful as a performative less vigorous than swear and more than affirm, couldn't it ???
    "Aver" means assert or maintain.
     

    Franzi

    Senior Member
    (San Francisco) English
    Okay! For some reason when you just posted the pronunciation of the word, my mind clicked on the past tense of it: averred.

    I've seen that and heard of that. I might have even used this before.

    Why in the world didn't I recognize your word?

    I can't recall ever seeing it used in the present tense. Could it be BE/AE differences again?

    AngelEyes
    No, it's that it's common in certain varieties of fiction as "blah blah blah", so-and-so averred. That's mostly where I've seen it anyway.

    As for the original question, I'd say that maybe 10% of intellectual/nerdy/sesquipedalian/etc. adults would use it now and then in speech and maybe 50% in writing. Anyone who's young or not much of a reader probably wouldn't use it.

    I would expect any literate adult to recognize it, certainly. It's the sort of word that people who are inclined to see pretentiousness will call pretentious and people who read too much will be inclined to use. Like the other words people have brought up, it's perfectly common in some contexts and not actually all that obscure.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Like LabLady [#10], I must've seen the word a xillion times ... in crosswords.
    Not much anywhere else, though.
     
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