First posted on 8 November 2011
The immigrant was a one-time defender of the Australian way of life.
Or in other words: The expatriate was an ex-patriot.
Of all the misused word pairs out there, substitution of ex-patriot for expatriate really gets on my goat.
Judging from the response to my tweet on the subject earlier today, I’m not the only one.
A quick search of reputable sources reveals that both expatriate and patriot stem from Latin roots for fatherland or native country, patriot arriving via French (patriote).
From a strictly etymological viewpoint then it’s not surprising that the two get confused. So why am I so irate? Well, because it’s illogical. Let me explain.
While strictly correct, ex-patriot is just plain silly. Apart from my ridiculous example to open this post, have you ever seen or heard it used?
On the other hand, patriate does not exist by itself (unless you are Canadian where the thinking goes if you can repatriate something you must have patriated it in the first place).
Whichever way you look at it, we are confusing words that, at best, can be termed theoretic, at worst, just plain made up.