FW: FW: Same sound, opposite meaning

Frank Abate abatefr at EARTHLINK.NET
Fri May 10 14:34:08 UTC 2002

Mark M and Fred S had this exchange:


        [Mark Mandel]
#> >  I don't agree. "Verbal" in the strict and original sense and my usage
#> >  includes written and oral language; in sloppyXXXXXX common present use
#> >  it refers to oral language only, explicitly opposed to written.

        [Fred Shapiro]
#"Verbal" meaning "oral" goes back to 1591 and was used in this sense by
#Pepys, Swift, Hume, Scott, and Lincoln.  Not exactly a sloppy recent

Well! (eyebrows up) Thanks for that dating. I still feel it's sloppy,
depriving us of a useful word ("verbal" = 'in words') by stealing it for
a sense we already have a perfectly good word for ("oral"), but it's
obviously got a long pedigree.

-- Mark


Words are primarily spoken, it seems to me, as all language is.  The written
form is a minority offshoot.  So, even etymologically, "verbal" refers to
the spoken word.

I think the contrast is between "oral" (or "verbal") and "written".  We are
not deprived of anything.

Frank Abate

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