Mark A. Mandel mamandel at LDC.UPENN.EDU
Fri Jul 28 19:32:04 UTC 2006

Beverly Flanigan <flanigan at OHIO.EDU> writes:


A curious sentence on a tourist site about Ireland:  "County Donegal - Not
many people would argue that Donegal has the finest scenery in the whole of
Ireland."  Does this mean (logically) that "not many people would argue
with the claim that ..." or (implausibly) that "not many people would make
the claim that ..."?  Does this kind of elision happen often?


"Arguably" is a well-known... what do we call it? Auto-antonym? a word that
has two opposite meanings. "Arguably X" is ambiguous between

1.  an academic or rhetorical use of "argue" 'support' : "argue that X" =
'present arguments in favor of X'

2.  the everyday sense of "argue" 'oppose' in assorted valences and
categories: 'dispute' as in "argue with (someone)"

I guess "arguably" originated with the rhetorical sense, which is being
driven out by the colloquial sense, and  I would argue(rhetorical) that the
same sea change is occurring here.

-- Mark
[This text prepared with Dragon NaturallySpeaking.]

The American Dialect Society -

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