It’s NOT “advocate for”

One point of personal privilege that comes with running a blog is that if the urge strikes, I can publish a quick thought on a completely random topic. Here’s one that’s been bugging me for a while.

The use of the term “advocate.” The word can be used as a noun or verb, and in its latter usage what was once a somewhat common error now seems to be absolutely pervasive – and it annoys me.That is the tendency to say that this or that group “advocates for higher wages” or increased disabled accessibility or less pollution or greater “access” to whatever the most recently discovered birthright entitlement is. No, they don’t. Well, maybe in a new, slightly maladaptive way they do. But in the proper sense, the truest sense, this group does not “advocate for.” They “advocate.”

The permeation of this error is a reflection of laziness and imprecision among those classes (agitators, self-styled do-gooders, etc.) who use it. While I do own an unabridged American Heritage Dictionary (widely considered to be the authoritative prescriptive dictionary of American English today) along with my collegiate version Merriam-Websters (a more descriptive, and on some level, liberal defining source of words), I’m not one of those people who don’t think the language can’t or shouldn’t evolve. I have no problem with that. This trend just happens to be particularly nauseating.

There are a few reasons why this error has probably developed, but one is undoubtedly the proliferation of politics as a proportion of the civil sphere. Everybody is an advocate these days, advocating for something. And by that I mean advocating something, of course.  I would include in this, broadly speaking, the rise of non-profits. Or “not for profits,” as the more well heeled among them prefer to be called. (That is another topic in and of itself, and a fun one at that!) The higher-quality sources tend to get it right, I’ve noticed, but I don’t know that even they’re immune.

Anyway. I received an email from a Missouri blog today that contained this error (I’ll let you guess which blog). It ticked me off and now I’ve steamed about it. Consternation relieved.



Filed under Just For Fun, Media

4 responses to “It’s NOT “advocate for”

  1. Brian Johnson

    That’s a good word, Stacey. I think you’re probably correct in that there are cases where “advocate for” would be appropriate. Even still, at this point that just reminds me of all the incorrect ways it is used, so I have little patience for the term even when used rightly. But again, I think you’re right.

  2. Stacey

    I believe “advocate for” can be used when it is referring to the object of the action, such as “Mr. Johnson advocates for children with special needs”, instead of “Mr. Johnson advocates for special needs legislation”. Am I correct? If so, the groups you mentioned ARE “advocating for”, they are just “advocating for” PEOPLE, not ISSUES. Geesh. It would be nice if everyone could remember that! Maybe the incorrect usage of “advocate” has evolved for a reason…

  3. Brian Johnson

    Wow. That’s just…….wow.

  4. Jim

    Brian, glad you’re advocating for good grammar.

    Haha. Couldn’t help but say it.

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