1

Rowhani's 'path of moderation' also shows limits:

Rowhani's aides have said he proposed an accord in 2005 with then-French President Jacques Chirac to allow uranium enrichment in exchange for the highest level of monitoring by the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency. The deal did not gain support from other countries such as Britain and the U.S.

Why does the author of the above article prefer to use the word watchdog instead of watchman? Is there any notable difference between the meaning of these two words in this context? Which one sounds more formal and correct in this context?

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Watchdog is definitely the more appropriate word in this context.

A quick look in the dictionary reveals:

watchdog (n.)
1. a person or organization that works to stop people from doing illegal things in a particular area of business or society
2. a dog used for guarding a house or piece of property

but:

watchman (n.)
1. a person employed to guard buildings or property
2. a man employed to patrol or guard the streets at night

I can understand, though, why a non-native might want further confirmation that watchdog is indeed the right word to use. It sounds like it could be offensive. Fact is, though, that the term watchdog agency is a very commonly used term when referring to regulatory agencies in areas such as energy and finance, and has been for decades. As you can readily see from perusing this list, the term is hardly considered slang, and is used in many serious and scholarly works.

On the other hand, for most native speakers, the term watchman conjures up images of a lone security guard with a flashlight, not an oversight committee.

  • 4
    +1 A watchdog, it may be observed, is generally regarded as fierce, vigilant, perceptive and loyal, while watchmen have traditionally been recruited from the least employable members of society. – StoneyB on hiatus Jun 18 '13 at 1:06

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