"infamous" = famous

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Feb 20 16:10:41 UTC 2005

At 5:13 PM -0800 2/19/05, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>Becoming endemic but not in OED, "infamous" as "well-known; famous" :

I've noticed this amelioration for awhile, but I don't think it's as
simple as Jon's equivalence above, or at least not yet--it's more
like "famous in a pop-cultural domain" or "famous (only) for being
famous".  Or at least that's the way I've often seen it.  So it can
be the "infamous Paris Hilton" or (slightly less likely) "the
infamous Brad Pitt" but much less likely "the infamous Mahatma
Gandhi", no matter how famous and well-known he was.  Let's google

"infamous Brad Pitt"  116
"infamous Mahatma Gandhi" 0

Of course, context is a problem--"infamous Paris Hilton" picks up
5690, but mostly of the form "the infamous Paris Hilton sex tapes" or
the like.  Still, I think the distinction is real:  "infamous" is
still a hyponym of "famous", rather than a synonym, although its
territory has expanded.


>"Carrot-chomping Bugs Bunny is joined by animated favourites Daffy
>Duck, Wile E Coyote, the Tasmanian Devil, Road Runner and Lola Bunny.
>"However, hardcore fans are in for a shock - the trademark
>characteristics will be gone, as will their infamous names.
>"Bugs is set to be renamed Buzz Bunny, while Daffy Duck will sport a
>built-in sonar."
>"Futuristic makeover for Bugs Bunny and Co," icWales, the national
>website of Wales,(
>Feb. 18, 2005.
>(The story reported is itself worthy of infamy  - in the old sense.)

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