Rick H Kennerly Rick at MOUSEHERDER.COM
Mon Jul 22 16:25:00 UTC 2002

Precisely.  It's not my field, but I never viewed etymology as prescriptive
but descriptive.  Certainly the journey of language is at least as
interesting as the vehicle, the individual word, itself.  Perhaps it's
because I'm more interested in ideas and connections than just definitions
(a very Thomas Hobbes, kind of ideal).

For instance, as an undergraduate we studied the Hawthorne Effect as a
management tool, which came from the disciplines of both business and
psychology (roughly, work conditions effects the outcome).  However, after
problems were discovered with the methodology in Hawthorne, then business
dropped it and the social sciences amended the meaning of Hawthorne Effect
to reflect the fact that you get the results you tell people you're watching
for (polluting the experiment) and then along comes Tom Peters selling books
to business telling them that "You get what you measure".  Then tie all that
together with, say, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle to describe several
phenomena in physics.  After awhile certain aspects of Heisneberg are
adopted by the social scientists (merely observing changes the result) to
more or less replace Hawthorne in the social sciences.  Somehow, it all
seems interesting and interconnected to me.

I guess it's just me, but the constant ebb and flow of meaning, the
borrowing and coining as life bumps up against language is what etymology is
all about.  Perhaps we should just publish a final dictionary for all
eternity and retire from the playing field.


|o| -----Original Message-----
|o| From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU]On Behalf
|o| Of Dennis R. Preston
|o| Sent: Monday, July 22, 2002 10:39
|o| Subject: Re: Picnic
|o| How many practices have to accompany another (designated by a "word")
|o| for the latter to gain connotations and, as time marches on,
|o| denotations? What does "housewife" mean (today), and, in spite of our
|o| knowledge of the origin of its morphs (way back), wouldn't we want to
|o| say that a part of its more recent meaning and use history (its
|o| "complete etymology," I would say) has to do with practices,
|o| associations, connotations and the like? A divorce of word history
|o| and social history will surely set us back.
|o| dInIs
|o| >On Mon, 22 Jul 2002, Rick H Kennerly wrote:
|o| >
|o| >         [attribution lost:]
|o| >#|o| I wouldn't say the jury was out at all. There are
|o| certainly a number of
|o| >#|o| people who believe that picnics took place at the sites
|o| of lynchings and
|o| >#|o| that the word has its origin in this practice.
|o| >#
|o| >#The photographic record is pretty clear that people did picnic at
|o| >#lynching/hangings.  So far the attitude seems to be, if we
|o| don't know about
|o| >#this use of the word, then it can't be true.
|o| >
|o| >By "this use of the word" do you mean the proposition that picnics took
|o| >place at lynchings? That's a practice, not a word usage; it's horrific
|o| >and I see why some would deny it, but is such denial relevant to the
|o| >etymythology?  And "the attitude" = whose attitude? I don't
|o| think anyone
|o| >is saying that picnics took place at lynchings but weren't called
|o| >"picnics", which would indeed be an issue of usage. The main
|o| question is
|o| >whether that was the origin of the word, and the evidence already cited
|o| >in this thread has definitively proved that it wasn't.
|o| >
|o| ># True or not, however, I'd think it interesting to know where & how
|o| >#that it got started, like the H in Jesus H Christ.
|o| >
|o| >"It" being the etymythology?
|o| >
|o| >To follow the digression: I think the "H" comes from the
|o| symbol sequence
|o| >"IHC" for "Jesus". That was originally a Greek abbreviation, Iota Eta
|o| >Sigma for the Greek form of the Hebrew name (Yeshuah), the Greek being
|o| >"Iesous" (long e) in transliteration and approximately IHCOYC (C is a
|o| >written form of capital sigma; Y here stands for capital upsilon)
|o| >graphically. I believe the same sequence was later read as the Latin
|o| >IHS, which was expanded in such meaningful ways as "Iesus Hominum
|o| >Salvator" 'Jesus, Savior of Men/Humans'.
|o| >
|o| >-- Mark A. Mandel
|o| --
|o| Dennis R. Preston
|o| Professor of Linguistics
|o| Department of Linguistics and Languages
|o| 740 Wells Hall A
|o| Michigan State University
|o| East Lansing, MI 48824-1027 USA
|o| Office - (517) 353-0740
|o| Fax - (517) 432-2736

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