“Blatantly” and “patently”

By Maeve Maddox

A reader says

I get blatantly and patently confused, always thinking that blatantly (obvious) is about the argument being very clear, however in the media I hear patently?

The adverb patently [pāt’nt-lē] means “openly, obviously, clearly.” It derives from the noun patent [Br pāt’nt, US păt’nt], a term that originally referred to an “open” letter or document as in Letters Patent. The general descriptive sense of “open to view, plain, clear” is first recorded c.1500 (The adjective patent is pronounced [pāt’nt] by both British and US speakers.)

He says the report in NYT… was “patently false.”

He was patently blessed.

“This is just more patently absurd stuff about software patents…

The adverb blatantly comes from a word coined by Edmund Spenser in his allegory The Faerie Queen. He created a thousand-tongued monster to represent the vice of Slander and called it the “blatant beast.” Blatant came to mean “noisy in an offensive and vulgar way.” The current sense of “obvious, glaringly conspicuous” dates from 1889.

How do I fire my trustee? He is blatantly self-dealing & has breached his fiduciary duty numerous ways.

Track announcer says he was ‘blatantly biased’ during his call of the Breeders’ Cup Classic,

Although he was blatantly on drugs, the crowd still cheered him…

In this example, the writer may have meant blatantly:

[The script] is patently gross and offensive.

Both words mean “obviously,” but the word patently does not necessarily convey a sense of disapproval. Blatantly is used when the trait or action described is seen as despicable.

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7 Responses to ““Blatantly” and “patently””

  • Paul Russell

    Maeve, your comment that “The adjective patent is pronounced [pāt’nt] by both British and US speakers” is not wholly true. There are Brits who say pay-tent and those who say pat-ent. I suspect the difference is regional.

    When it comes to patent leather, I’ve never heard anyone say anything other than pay-tent leather. Would you agree that’s the correct pronunciation, or are there people who say pat-ent leather?

    –paul

  • Maeve

    @Paul
    I recall having patent leather mary janes when I was little. We pronounced the patent with a short a sound. Hmm. I’d say patent leather with a short a, but I’d probably say patent lie with a long a.

    I have the OED on my iPhone (about 30,000 words of it) and it comes with audio pronunciations as well as phonetic symbols. Patent is pronounced twice. Both pronunciations have what sounds to me like a long a, but in the phonetic symbols given, the first shows a as in day and the second shows a as in cat.

    So yes, it must be a regional thing.

    Thanks

  • Deborah H

    I pronounce patent with a short a sound, too, and I am from Texas. One of my oldest friends is from Georgia, and she also pronounces patent with a short a.

  • Peter

    I pronounce it with a long a, but I don’t really know why…pateo has a short a in Latin. Usually the use of the long vowel in Latin-derived words in English comes from a Latin long vowel (even though “long” means something entirely different there).

  • Iain

    Hi guys. It should be pronounced with a long a because there is only one t after the a. A double consonant following a vowel will shorten the sound, e.g Brittany, batter, litter, pill. There are some exceptions e.g Hall, ball etc. If the following consonant is hard i.e t, then this will shorten the vowel.
    Oh and to Paul, I have never heard a Brit pronounce it with a short a and I am British.

  • Snowy

    Look chaps, it’s very simple. During the 1960’s, there was a TV quiz with a panel of guests who would endeavour to correctly establish the application of various weird inventions presented to them. The name of the quiz show was “It’s Patently Obvious”, a clever play on words, taken from the original saying, being “It’s blatantly obvious”.

    At the time, and consequently, folk are now saying ‘patently’ instead of ‘blatantly’.

    ..another shining example of vast amounts pf people trying to be clever through conjecture without having the actual facts themselves..

    Good luck!

    ..and

  • Snowy

    Look chaps, it’s very simple. During the 1970’s, there was a TV quiz with a panel of guests who would endeavour to correctly establish the application of various weird inventions presented to them. The name of the quiz show was “It’s Patently Obvious”, a clever play on words, taken from the original saying, being “It’s blatantly obvious”.
    Consequently, folk are now saying ‘patently’ instead of ‘blatantly’.

    One could say ‘it’s plainly/candidly/brazenly obvious” instead. However they are all effectively a pleonasm or maybe examples of tautology.
    The word ‘patently’ had no meaning reference to the word obvious. It does now because of the internet and a non meaning word created from a quiz show! Not only that, but the meaning of the word patent does not reference to anything being obvious in it’s original sense, it’s just language being messed with as usual.

    ..another shining example of vast amounts pf people trying to be clever through conjecture without having the actual facts themselves..

    Good luck!

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