More semantic drift

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Fri Sep 22 16:21:44 UTC 2006

FWIW, I'm with Jon, especially WRT to the use of "ready" as an
intransitive verb in contemporary American English. 'Tis passing
strange. Its use by A. Lincoln is probably the result of his having
had to study by candlelight or, perhaps, having had to write by


On 9/22/06, Chris F Waigl <chris at> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Chris F Waigl <chris at LASCRIBE.NET>
> Subject:      Re: More semantic drift
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> >
> > A leading publisher has retained a number of learned academics to
> > prepare teacher's guides to great works of literature.  One such
> > guide exhibits the following usages which I suspect are more than
> > idiosyncratic yet appear to be relatively novel. [...]
> I'm not sure how novel or semantically drifted some of these are. I
> don't have access to the OED except on weekends, with some luck. (At
> least Lambeth Libraries *are* signed up. I'm grateful for that. I seem
> to be the only person in Brixton who has ever asked about the OED, but
> unfortunately I'm not the only person in Brixton who wants to use the
> computers.)
> > [...]
> >
> > _espouse_, v. to relate or recount: "Lysistrata convinces the women
> > to return to the Akropolis by espousing a prophecy that describes
> > their victory if they remain chaste."
> If it is understood that Lysistrata is talking to the other women, then
> the regular sense of _espouse_ suffices, doesn't it? AHD4 says "2. To
> give one's loyalty or support to (a cause, for example); adopt." I mean,
> it's a play; they're talking all the time anyhow.
> > _playwrighting_, n.
> > playwriting: "Aristotle's dramatic structure was eventually adopted
> > as the rules of playwrighting."  [100,000 raw Googlits.]
> Well...
> > _politics_, "social relations, esp. as between persons of
> > conflicting interests or attitudes": "Greek modern
> > audiences insight into political issues in ancient Greece. What might
> > the themes below tell us about their politics?  1. The war between
> > the sexes. 2. Abstinence brings peace. 3. Make love not war. 4.
> > "Never underestimate the power of a woman." [etc.]  [Resembles OED
> > 3.b., but appears to be more concrete, i.e., not just "assumptions or
> > principles."]
> I'd have said "power relations [etc.]", but this usage and definition is
> precisely what I arrived at when I first tried to consciously pin down
> what "politics" means, as a young-ish adult. Is this controversial?
> > _quality_, adj. of the greatest possible excellence:
> > "Aristotle...sets forth the principles of quality poetry in order of
> > importance."
> Why not just "of a high degree of excellence"? (And why adj., not n.?)
> > _ready_, v. intrans. to prepare: "The male chorus leader commands the
> > men to ready for war."
> ====
> "No, thank you," said he, "I must be off. Don't forget, little mousey,
> that you are to ready for another ride next Wednesday." And away he went.
> The Moorland Cottage, by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell
> <>
> ====
> [And, indeed, the enemy was let back into Richmond and it took
> another two years and thousands of dead for McClelland cowardice--if
> that was all that it was.  I still suspect, and I think the evidence
> is overwhelming that he was, either secretly a supporter of the
> South, or, what is more likely, a politician readying for a different
> campaign: that of the Presidency of the United States.]
> The Writings of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 6
> TO GENERAL G. B. McCLELLAN. October 13, 1862.
> ====
> Chris Waigl
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

Everybody says, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange
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a debt of gratitude we owe to Adam, the first great benefactor of our
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