The Grammarphobia Blog

A moving appreciation

Q: The words “move” and  “appreciate” are often used in local government in San Francisco, but not always to my liking. I hear “so moved” when a motion is approved rather than introduced. And I hear things like “I want to appreciate her advocacy” instead of “I appreciate her advocacy.” Your thoughts, please.

A: We’re volunteer land-use commissioners in our small New England town, so we’re intimately acquainted with the jargon of local government.

We’ve never heard “So moved” used to indicate that a motion has been approved. The usual expression would be “Motion carried” or “Motion approved.”

In our town, the chairman of a board, committee, or commission may say something like “I’d entertain a motion to approve the minutes” or “I’d entertain a motion to adjourn.”

One of the seated members may then say “So moved” as shorthand for “I move to approve the minutes” or “I move to adjourn.”

Some parliamentary mavens object to the use of “So moved” in such a case, insisting that it’s too vague and that a full motion should be made.

We see nothing wrong with using “So moved” for relatively minor motions like those mentioned above.

But we’d recommend a formal motion in more complex situations, such as a vote on a series of amendments to revise building setbacks.

As for the verb “appreciate,” it means to be thankful or grateful for something when used in the sense you’ve mentioned. The usual, idiomatic way of using it, as you point out, is “I appreciate her advocacy.”

The sentence “I want to appreciate her advocacy” seems off to you because it’s not idiomatic. In fact, it suggests just the opposite of what is intended: “I want to appreciate her advocacy, but …”

With a little help from our friends at Google, we found lots of examples of the “want to” usage that bugs you, such as “I want to appreciate his gifts of fatherhood and joy” and “I want to appreciate his generosity.”

However, we also found many examples of “want to” followed by a not-so-appreciative “but” clause, including this one from a post on Tumblr: “I want to appreciate Tupac’s music but I cannot get into it.”

We wrote a post a couple of years ago about the use of “but” clauses in backhanded statements like “It’s not about the money, but …” and “It really doesn’t matter to me, but …”

The technical term for this kind of usage is “procatalepsis.” The word comes from post-classical Latin, and it’s defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as a “rhetorical figure by which an opponent’s objections are anticipated and answered.”

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