Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Feb 15 21:09:55 UTC 2008

At 10:40 AM -0800 2/15/08, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>Just told my wife about today's use of "heart-rendering."  She
>rolled hetr eyes and exclaimed, "That used to be a joke!"
>   She recalls friends in '50s Brooklyn saying, "It was
>heart-_rendering_!" in a decidedly sarcastic manner, possibly
>imitating people who said it seriously.
>   At any rate, it meant "heart-rending," not "heart-warming."  She's
>sure of that.
>   JL

Ah, but "heart-rending" can mean 'heart-warming' too.  Even in AHD we find

'Causing anguish or deep distress; arousing deep sympathy.'

while OED still gets by with 'terribly distressing'.  From 'arousing
deep sympathy' to 'heart-warming' (or some other "positive" emotive
sense) is but a short leap of the heart.


>"Arnold M. Zwicky" <zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU> wrote:
>   ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>Sender: American Dialect Society
>Poster: "Arnold M. Zwicky"
>Subject: Re: heart-rendering
>On Feb 15, 2008, at 8:56 AM, Jon Lighter wrote:
>>  But just to be clear: my students have been using "heart-rendering"
>>  for decades, but so far as I remember only in the sense (like "heart-
>>  rending") of "painfully affecting; so tragic you can't stand it."
>>  Dr. Peters does a double jump: his "heart-rendering" is something
>>  positive.
>ah, i see that i didn't read your original posting carefully enough.
>so, possibly a "private meaning" for "heart-rendering" -- a meaning
>wrongly induced from context (though preserving the 'powerfully
>affecting' component of meaning), like the next example you provide:
>>  In a similar vein, a few years back I knew a student who used
>>  "tearjerker" in a positive way.
>>  E.g., "'Come Up from the Fields, Father,' is Whitman's famous
>>  tearjerker about the Civil War." He went on to say how affecting it
>>  was. I suspect this is pretty common.
>the next one is a private meaning that might have been arrived at by
>reasoning from the form of the word:
>>  Another dude, in a letter to the _Atlantic_, insisted that a
>>  "stemwinder" was a long, tedious speech, because it made the
>>  audience check their watches; then they'd fiddle with them.
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>Never miss a thing.   Make Yahoo your homepage.
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list