Now, the VOA Special English program Words and Their Stories.
Today's word is "belittle." It was first used by Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States.
Many years ago, a French naturalist, the Count de Buffon, wrote some books about natural history. The books were a great success even though some critics did not like them. Some critics said, "Count Buffon is more of a poet than a scientist."
Thomas Jefferson did not like what the Count had said about the natural wonders of the New World. It seemed to Jefferson that the Count had gone out of his way to speak of natural wonders in America as if they were unimportant.
This troubled Thomas Jefferson. He, too, was a naturalist -- as well as a farmer, inventor, historian, writer and politician. He had seen the natural wonders of Europe. To him, they were no more important than those of the New World.
In 1788, Thomas Jefferson wrote about his home state, Virginia. While writing, he thought of its natural beauty and then of the words of Count de Buffon. At that moment, Jefferson created a new word -- belittle. He said, "The Count de Buffon believes that nature belittles her productions on this side of the Atlantic."
Noah Webster, the American word expert, liked this word. He put it in his English language dictionary in 1806: "Belittle -- to make small, unimportant."
Americans had already accepted Jefferson's word and started to use it. In 1797, the Independent Chronicle newspaper used the word to describe a politician the paper supported. "He is an honorable man," the paper wrote, "so let the opposition try to belittle him as much as they please."
In 1844, the Republican Sentinel of Virginia wrote this about the opposition party: "The Whigs may attempt to belittle our candidates...that is a favorite game of theirs."
In 1872, a famous American word expert decided that the time had come to kill this word. He said, "Belittle has no chance of becoming English. And as more critical writers of America -- like those of Britain -- feel no need of it, the sooner it is forgotten, the better."
This expert failed to kill the word. Today, belittle is used not only in the United States and England, but in other countries where the English language is spoken. It seems that efforts to belittle the word did not stop people from using it.
You have been listening to the VOA Special English program Words and Their Stories. I'm Warren Scheer.
1.belittle vt. 轻视；贬低；使相形见小
We mustn't belittle her outstanding achievement.
2.naturalist n. 自然主义者；博物学者；adj. 自然的（等于naturalistic）；自然主义的；博物学的
He was a printer by trade and naturalist by avocation.
多年以前，法国自然学家布丰伯爵著成几本自然史书籍。尽管有些评论家不喜欢它们，这些书热销一时 。有评论家说，“与其说布丰伯爵是科学家，不如说他是诗人 。”
这一点让杰弗逊颇为不快。他也是自然学家、同时还是农民、投资家、历史学家、作家和政治家 。他曾游览欧洲的各处自然奇观 。但是，对他来说，那些奇观并没有比新大陆的自然奇观更具重要性 。
1788年，杰弗逊写了一本关于他的家乡弗吉尼亚州的书。写作时，他想起了家乡的自然美景，又想到了布丰伯爵的那些作品 。在那一瞬间，杰斐逊创造了一个新词轻视（belittle） 。他说：“布丰伯爵认为，大自然贬低了其在大西洋彼岸的作品 。”
美国词语专家诺亚·韦伯斯特非常喜欢这个词。1806年，他将这个单词收入他的英语词典 。贬低（Belittle）的意思是“小看，轻看（to make small-unimportant） 。
美国人早已接受杰斐逊创造的这个单词并开始使用它。1797年，独立纪事报用这个词来描写一个报纸所支持的一位政治家 。 “他是一位值得大家敬佩的人，”报纸写道，“无论反对派怎么贬低他，都不会影响他的声誉 。”
这位专家却未能阻止该词的使用。现在，belittle不仅在美国和英国，还在其他使用英语的国家都得到了广泛的使用 。 看来，为贬低这个词所作的种种努力并未阻止人们使用它 。