That’s the Word for It: Peremptory



The adjective peremptory originates from Latin perimere, which means “to take entirely” and is autocratic in its connotation.  The term also has legal connotation and is applied to writs, juror challenges or a date set for hearing. It is often confused with the adjective preemptive.

Here are some instances in literature when the word peremptory has taken the stage:

“It is a wonderful subduer, this need of love–this hunger of the heart–as peremptory as that other hunger by which Nature forces us to submit to the yoke, and change the face of the world.”
― George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss

“So what happened to the comma in this process? Well, between the 16th century and the present day, it became a kind of scary grammatical sheepdog. As we shall shortly see, the comma has so many jobs as a ‘separator’ (punctuation marks are traditionally either ‘separators’ or ‘terminators’) that it tears about on the hillside of language, endlessly organising words into sensible groups and making them stay put: sorting and dividing; circling and herding; and of course darting off with a peremptory ‘woof’ to round up any wayward subordinate clause that makes a futile bolt for semantic freedom. Commas, if you don’t whistle at them to calm down, are unstoppably enthusiastic at this job. Luckily the trend in the 20th century (starting with H. W. Fowler’s The King’s English in 1906) has been towards ever-simpler punctuation, with fewer and fewer commas; but take any passage from a non-contemporary writer and you can’t help seeing the constituent words as so many defeated sheep that have been successfully corralled with the gate slammed shut by good old Comma the Sheepdog.”
― Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation


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