Consummate Does Not Mean Commensurate

By Maeve Maddox

The following comment by a professional journalist set me wondering if I had the wrong idea about the meaning of the adjective consummate:

Bernie Sanders is talking real issues. The pundits that are giving Bernie Sanders a bit of coverage, though not consummate to the crowds he is attracting, are noting the authenticity of his prose.

The adjective consummate [kun-SUM-it] and the verb consummate [KAHN-suh-mate], come from Latin words having to do with completion.

The adjective derives from classical Latin consummātus, “lacking nothing, complete, perfect.”

The verb is from classical Latin consummāt-, past participial stem of consummāre, “to add up, make up, to bring to an end, finish off, to complete, finish, to achieve, accomplish, to perfect.”

A “consummate liar” is one who is extremely accomplished in the telling of falsehoods.

“To consummate a marriage” is to complete it with sexual union.

“To consummate a business deal” is to complete such arrangements as signing contracts and transferring deeds.

Try as I may, I cannot stretch any of these meanings to fit the context of the quotation given above.

An adjective that would fit the context is commensurate [kuh-MEN-suh-rit or kuh-MEN-shuur-it], a word that comes from Latin commensuratus: com (together) + mensurare (to measure).

The writer’s meaning is that the coverage of the speaker is not in proportion to the size of the crowds he attracts. The coverage and the crowds “do not measure up,” that is, the coverage “is not commensurate” with the crowds.

A web search indicates that the error is not unique to the person who wrote the example that prompted this post:

INCORRECT: Your high turnover rates are due to the fact that the amount of work demanded is not consummate to the pay offered. 
CORRECT : Your high turnover rates are due to the fact that the amount of work demanded is not commensurate with the pay offered. 

INCORRECT: The point Waddle was trying to make was Beckham’s ability was not consummate to his fame.
CORRECT : The point Waddle was trying to make was Beckham’s ability was not commensurate with his fame.

INCORRECT: The amount of money being run by on-the-ground event-driven managers in Europe is not consummate to the size of the market.
CORRECT : The amount of money being run by on-the-ground event-driven managers in Europe is not commensurate with the size of the market.

INCORRECT: AGL [Australian energy provider]…cautions against proposals that will result in a significant cost imposition on ACT electricity consumers that is not consummate to the benefits provided.
CORRECT : AGL [Australian energy provider]…cautions against proposals that will result in a significant cost imposition on ACT electricity consumers that is not commensurate with the benefits provided.

Used as an adjective, consummate means “complete” or “perfect.” It is usually followed by the noun it qualifies: “consummate actor,” “consummate politician,” etc.

The adjective commensurate, “corresponding in size, extent, amount, or degree,” is conventionally followed by with (not to).

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1 Response to “Consummate Does Not Mean Commensurate”

  • venqax

    This could be an auto-correct issue, maybe? Or just another case of the “all multisyllabic words that begin with the same letter are interchangeable” school of thought.

    I compensate with your situation.
    I’ll commiserate you nicely for your time.
    He is taking his evening comprehensional.
    A laxative perhaps? He has been constituted for days.

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