Embraced by the "lite"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Jun 18 06:26:55 UTC 2001

At 1:37 PM -0400 6/18/01, Jesse Sheidlower wrote:
>  > If the AHD is right in considering "lite" (as in "lite
>  > music" and presumably "Reagan lite") to be slang, why doesn't the
>>  HDAS agree?
>Good example of begging the question, Larry. Obviously if the AHD is
>right in considering "lite" to be slang, than the HDAS is wrong to
>omit it.

Well, I did say "if".

>I certainly don't think that the general use, as a spelling variant of
>_light_ in any of several senses, is slang. The postnominal use is
>arguably slang; I don't think it is and neither did Lighter, though we
>looked at a very large batch of citations for it when in the L's on
>HDAS, but perhaps one could make a case. Others have noted that of the
>various other dictionaries that include "lite," only AHD4 regards it
>as slang, though RHW I think calls it "informal".

I'd happily accept "informal" or "colloquial" (as below).  I just
wonder whether such labels exempt a slang dictionary like the HDAS
from listing an item, since the boundary between "slang" and
"informal"/"colloquial" strikes me as a bit slippery if not ad hoc.

>OED, for its part, will be including it as a separate entry, not just
>as a spelling variant (since the "lite" spelling signals particular
>semantic information, we'd regard it as a different word).


>  The draft
>entry we have now gives a few different senses, including a noun use,
>with cites to 1955; an adjective in the sense 'easy to perform or
>accomplish' (in "lite work" in a job description); an adjective in the
>sense 'Designating a manufactured product that is lighter (in various
>senses) than the ordinary variety', from 1962; and the sense I assume
>you're interested in, 'Designating a simplified or moderated version
>of something; (dismissively) lacking in substance; over-simplified;
>facile', which is labelled as "U.S. colloq." (an accurate label in
>my view) and goes back to 1989, though this is a rough draft with no
>research done and I'm sure this could be bettered.
Yes, it does.  That all sounds fine, Jesse, and of course I will be
interested to see the early cites for the post-nominal 'facile' sense
arising in 1989.  I also think some of the current uses cited in my
earlier post, especially as proper noun modifiers (Reagan lite,
Chomsky lite, Hitler lite), aren't so much 'over-simplified ' or
'facile' or even 'lacking in substance' but something more along the
lines of a weakened, adulterated, softened or less extreme version of
the modified name/noun.


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