Repurposing beef

Today’s Scenes From a Multiverse:

(I especially like the idea that beef sandwiches would be a repurposing of the meat.)

The transitive verb repurpose turns out to be relatively recent, and even more recently escaped from the world of recordings. From OED3 (Sept. 2004):

trans. To convert or adapt for a different purpose or for use in a different way.
Originally with reference to recording formats.

The first cite is from 1984, and it has ” ‘repurpose’ video disks”, with quotation marks indicating that the writer expects the word to be new to readers.

By the 21st century we get the word in wider contexts, as in:

2006    Icon May 164/1   The re-carpeting project will also involve repurposing the council’s old carpet tiles.

And now I talk about repurposing postcards — altering and amending cards people have sent me to turn them into new cards (to send to still other people). Some G-rated samples on academic themes linked to here.

Repurpose is such a useful word, conveying not just ‘reuse’, but ‘reuse for a new purpose’, that I’m surprised it’s so recent.

One Response to “Repurposing beef”

  1. mike Says:

    Back in 1998, someone asked about “repurpose” in one of Barbara Walraff’s word columns in The Atlantic, noting that the term was “universal” at that time. Her response was that a) she’d never heard it but b) it seemed useful, as indeed it has proved (proven).

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