James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Mon Jan 21 16:50:47 UTC 2002

In a message dated 01/16/2002 9:26:34 PM Eastern Standard Time,
carljweber at MSN.COM writes:

> Calling evidence of Amerindian anthropophagy merely anecdotal, and not
>  representative of Amerindian culture, seems the only refutation to my offer
>  of evidence, but maybe there are others.

This is an interesting use of the word "anecdotal".  OED2 has no meaning for
either "anecdotal" or "anecdote" that comes close (OED2 has three definitions
for "anecdote": 1) hitherto unpublished narrative 2) narrative of a single
event told as being in itself interesting or striking 3) from art: a painting
etc that depicts a small incident).  M-W 10th Collegiate has one additional
definition: "based on or consisting of reports or obsdervations of usu.
unscientific observers (~ evidence)" which is a common usage in scientific
reports but does not really fit here.

(a citation for the M-W definition, from the Feb 2002 Scientific American
page 80 column 1) <begin quote>In experiments, families have volunteered or
been paid to stop viewing, typically for a week or a month.  Many could not
complete the period of abstinence.  Some fought, verbally and physically.
Anecdotal reports from some families that have tried the annual "TV turn off"
week in the U.S. tell a similar story. <end quote>)

(citation is from the article "Television Addiction is no mere metaphor" by
Robert Kubey and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)

What does carljweber mean by "anecdotal".  The context here is tricky, since
he is rebutting statements in a previous letter that do not contain the word
"anecdotal".  Apparently he means to describe reports as being second- or
third-hand, written long after the fact, collected from unreliable witnesses,
or otherwise carrying a presumption of unreliability.  I.e. "mere anecdotes
rather than reliable first-hand reports".

Has anyone else seen a similar usage of "anecdotal"?

            - Jim Landau

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