The last couple of articles have dealt with descendants and relatives of Latin gnoscere ‘to know.’ The previous post ended with reconocer/recognize and recognition/reconocimiento. Of the many meanings of Spanish reconocer, one is military, with the Diccionario de la Real Academia Española defining it this way: ‘Examinar de cerca un campamento, fortificación o posición militar del enemigo.’ English speakers may recognize that meaning in reconnoiter, a verb borrowed from Old French reconoistre, the cognate of Spanish reconocer. English not only acquired the corresponding noun reconnaissance, but also the doublet recognizance, whose spelling shows influence from the Medieval Latin verb recognizare.
To reconquistar/reconquer is to conquer again, and to reinterpretar/reinterpret is to interpret again, but reconnoiter is one of those re- verbs in English for which dropping the prefix doesn’t leave a simpler verb: you can reconnoiter but you can’t connoiter—at least not in the standard language. That doesn’t stop some people from trying, though, and Urban Dictionary has this entry for connoiter:
Nice try, but no go.
© 2011 Steven Schwartzman