Embraced by the "lite"

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Mon Jun 18 21:11:37 UTC 2001

>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.

Does the adjective "lite" (as opposed to "light") systematically include
special semantic information in any of its common uses?

I would think "lite work" as above exactly = "light work", although one
would need context.

Certainly "lite" and "light" are often employed interchangeably with
reference to beer, etc. (whether correctly or not)?

Didn't the "Chicago Tribune" routinely use the spelling "lite" purely on
grounds of orthographic preference (approx. 1940-1975)?

The distinctive usage is the "colloquial" postnominal one (IMHO), and I
think the distinction here is that "lite" is the more common spelling, not
that it is distinct from "light": I would think that "Christianity Lite" is
identical to "Christianity Light" (both are on the Web) (although in one
["humorous"] page the spelling "lite" is explicitly preferred for
"marketing" purposes). I've seen "Hitler Lite"; I haven't seen "Hitler
Light", but if I did I would read it as having exactly the same meaning and
implication if used in the same context.

Perhaps the spelling "lite" conveys a special impression of frivolity or of
crass/"cutesy" consumer marketing, but isn't this the same for many other
deliberately simplified or altered spellings?

Google claims >2,000,000 hits for "lite" ... but also >2,000,000 for
"thru", and >500,000 for "nite".

US trademarks with "Lite": over 5000, including Prest-O-Lite (1907)
(acetylene tanks), Auto-Lite (1914) (electrical parts), Airy-Lite KB (1916)
(men's clothing).

-- Doug Wilson

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