Truespel Spam

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Tue Feb 5 05:04:41 UTC 2008

On Feb 4, 2008 11:39 PM, LanDi Liu <strangeguitars at> wrote:
> Ben Zimmer (one of my superheroes) wrote:
> > > (Outside the theology of
> > > ADS-L? If only we had the powers of excommunication...)
> This, and a lot of the other remarks about TZ are surprising in the light of
> the ADS's own description of its members (from the home page): "Our members
> include academics and amateurs, professionals and dilettantes, teachers and
> writers."

My comment  was of course written in jest (even if I neglected to add
an emoticon). I was just struck by the ludicrousness of a
"theological" ADS-L, presumably run by a cabal of high priests. I'm
not interested in excommunicating anyone -- on the contrary, I find
the openness of ADS-L to be one of its virtues, overall. My apologies,
Randy, if I gave the impression of close-mindedness.

> There are a lot of "names" that have come to my mind when reading TZ's
> posts, too, but that's where they have stayed.
> I am in no way condoning his behavior, however.  It does verge on spam
> sometimes, and that's completely wrong on a list like this.
> Maybe it's better to address these iniquities more specifically, and with
> the emotional detachment normally characteristic of academic discourse
> (whether or not that discourse includes participants, like me, with no
> "piece of paper"*).

I've never cared for the "professional" vs. "amateur" distinction,
particularly when it comes to more lexicographical matters. This is a
point I raised on Language Log recently with respect to the New
Scientist article on "amateur" lexicography:

As should be obvious to anyone who regularly reads ADS-L, many of the
most important recent discoveries in historical lexicography have come
from the so-called "dilettantes". I certainly didn't mean to impugn
any non-professionals with my "excommunication" jab, which was of
course directed at one person who steadfastly refuses to learn the
basics of phonetics and phonology -- something that any "amateur", let
alone a self-proclaimed "expert", should be able to do.

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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