Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Mon Jul 22 12:18:15 UTC 2002

An excellent point. Some etymologists appear to believe that the
science is limited to "ultimates." I wonder why they ever mess with
Germanic and Latin-Greek bsses when they could just run up the
reconstructed PIE morphs. But that would not lead us down the often
exciting trails of words, ones which include numerous folk
etymologies being responsible for the current "meaning" (or even
shape) of a word.

More sociolinguistically appropriate, of course, is the fact that not
all words have meant the same thing to all groups, a pretty common
lexicographical fact, I would think, since we have dictionaries based
on all sorts of group memberships and since leakage of those meanings
to out-groups is common - African-American to the wider speech
community being just one very good example.


>|o| Oh, I'm still upset about the political popularity of false etymology,
>But we don't know that for sure either, at least not in this case.  We've
>nailed down the beginning and the end point of this picnic issue, but we
>don't know what's in the middle.  A regionalism?  Black speak too painful
>for whites to acknowledge?  We don't know or we don't want to know?  Just
>because it's not mainstream doesn't mean that it doesn't have currency in
>some circles.

Dennis R. Preston
Professor of Linguistics
Department of Linguistics and Languages
740 Wells Hall A
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1027 USA
Office - (517) 353-0740
Fax - (517) 432-2736

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