Why we need to retire “transpire”

If you’ve seen either half of Coles & Lopez recently, you’ll know we’re both extremely busy: Daisy with creating a new human life; I with fixing spelling mistakes.

Nevertheless, I’m determined to keep up with the weekly blog posts, so here’s a very quick note on a word you probably shouldn’t use:

transpire

Traditionally, “transpire” means “become known, be revealed”:

It transpired that the “ghost” was actually Mr Magnus.

But, over time, people have started using it to mean “happen”:

Shaggy and Scooby told the rest of the gang what had transpired.

It’s not hard to work out how this change took place – people heard sentences like “You won’t believe what transpired” and, understandably, took “transpired” to mean “happened”. Then they went off and started using it that way in sentences of their own, and hey presto.

However, there are still plenty of purists who see that newfangled usage as a mistake. So, to make sure you neither confuse nor anger your readers, it’s better just to say “happened”/“occurred”/“came to pass”/“took place” OR “became known”/“was revealed”/“came to light”/“was discovered”, depending on what you mean.