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Page Stephens hpst at EARTHLINK.NET
Tue May 25 18:48:02 UTC 2004

I have occasionally attempted with very little success to upload something
to this list which would attempt to catch a word or phrase not in terms of
origin but in terms of usage at any given point in time.

I love lexicography but unfortunately it has its limitations because it
tends to deal with origins of words and phrases.

First used is useful information to know but as a socio-cultural
anthropologist I find used in such and such a context in such and such an
area at such and such a time is of more interest to me.

The problem with a phrase like "first used" is that it tends to inscribe the
word of phrase in stone and ignores all changes in meaning in stone as it

This ignores the problem of how words and phrases change their denotations
and connotations over time.

The problem I think we have to deal with is socio-culturally imbedded, i.e..
think we have to deal not only with words and phrases in the abstract but
with the socio-cultural formations which give rise to them and in which they
come into existence and are or are not perpetuated.

I would love to see a discussion of this on this list on the ground that
otherwise the words and phrases we are dealing with are merely hanging out
there in the abstract and have no more relationship to reality than a snake
has hips.

I admit the fact that I am an anthropologist who got into the field not  in
order to collect cultural "facts" but to explain them.

If you think I am wrong about this, and I am not putting down anyone's
contributions to this list, please tell me so.

Page Stephens

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