male pattern baldness

Gregory {Greg} Downing gd2 at IS2.NYU.EDU
Fri Nov 12 20:54:26 UTC 1999

At 02:40 PM 11/12/99 -0500, M_Lynne_Murphy at wrote:
>If you say he's bald, then it sounds
>like he has no hair, or at least less than a horse-shoe's worth.

"Bald" is of course an old word that did not originate from science or
medicine. As such it has a wide and rather fuzzy range of meaning. It can
mean completely hairless, or it can mean not having hair on some part of the
head where it would normally be. OED2 bald, meaning 2 (the first meaning
having to do with hair): "Having no hair on some part of the head where it
would naturally grow...."

I suspect that in drawing a clear distinction (i.e., eliminating any
overlap) between MPB and bald, you are doing something that people often do:
forging and articulating a distinction between what are,
descriptivistically, overlapping locutions, i.e., neatening up the language.
It's not folk-etymology, it's more like "non-descriptivistic semantic
disambiguation" or something. (Hey, "folk-etymology" isn't the most accurate
term in the world, either -- phenomena discussed under the heading
"folk-etymology" frequently arise or happen elsewhere than among "the folk,"
and are in fact quite often non-etymological.)

Best, Greg D.

Greg Downing/NYU, at greg.downing at or gd2 at

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