male pattern baldness

Lynne Murphy M_Lynne_Murphy at BAYLOR.EDU
Fri Nov 12 20:18:19 UTC 1999

Yes, "bald" has a fuzzy meaning (like just about everything else).  The point I
was trying to make was that because the two terms exist, and one of them
definitely does not describe complete baldness,  the one that has the potential
to mean something different ("bald" can mean 'completely hairless') is often
assumed to have that more extreme meaning.  Also, one might suppose that the
prototypical meaning for "bald" is complete hairlessness (my cat is bald, he
went bald from chemotherapy), but the prototypical meaning for "bald man" is
more like "male pattern baldness"--bringing up other problems.

Lynne, who doesn't have a cat, but might like a bald one

Gregory {Greg} Downing wrote:

> 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


M. Lynne Murphy, Assistant Professor in Linguistics
Department of English, Baylor University
PO Box 97404, Waco, TX 76798 USA
Phone:  254-710-6983     Fax:  254-710-3894

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