Angelina Jolie's Surgery: Preventive or Preventative?

Stop!!! Colin Brough

Angelina Jolie is everywhere right now, and with just cause. But it's unclear what we should call it.

By getting her surgery, she has raised awareness for women everywhere, since no one can escape this news story, and let's be honest, were you fully aware women could be tested this specifically? No, neither were we.

And while we would never have considered doing otherwise, it's also impressive she took this measure given how much she (and certainly her industry) value aesthetics. (What do you mean it's all smoke and mirrors? And what do you mean breasts are for nursing babies?)

But this article is not about that. It's about two words: 'preventive' and 'preventative', and which is correct in this instance (since both are being used). 'Preventive' was the original adjective of prevent, though modern usage has those of us in the UK using 'preventative' as often as 'preventive'. In North America (where the English language more often endures abuse), 'preventive' is still the preference.

And while 'preventive' is being used by most of the media, cases of 'preventative' can be found. (This particularly helpful page even cites a case where the New York Times, so often a beacon of style, used 'preventative' as a noun and 'preventive' as an adjective in the same sentence. Were the editors sleeping? Or do we need to do another article on that?)

We'll be using 'preventive' when discussing Angelina Jolie's breasts at the water cooler tomorrow. And appreciating the fact we got to write the previous sentence without raising any eyebrows.