'convicted' for 'convinced'

Herb Stahlke hfwstahlke at GMAIL.COM
Thu Mar 27 12:18:19 UTC 2008

The mom is right. "Convicted" is common Christian fundamentalist usage that
has spread over into Evangelical usage as well.  OED gives the earliest cite
for "convicted" as

*1822* M. B. SMITH *Let.* 12 Oct. in *40 Yrs. Washington Soc.* (1906) 159
The groans and sobs of the newly converted, or convicted as they call them.

There is an earlier citation under "convince," meaning 4 (  *4.* To bring
conviction or acknowledgement of error home to (a person); to impress with
the sense of sinfulness.
*1526* *Pilgr. Perf.* (W. de W. 1531) 4b, Notwithstandynge that theyr owne
reason conuicted them. *1611* BIBLE *John* viii. 9 They..being conuicted by
their owne conscience, went out one by one. **"  I suspect the modern usage
goes back to that KJV reference, since the KJV is still the only authorized
version among most fundamentalists. The KJV usage may well be contemporary
with the earlier 1526 citation since 80 percent of the KJV is closely based
on the 1526 Tyndale translation.


On Thu, Mar 27, 2008 at 12:35 AM, Neal Whitman <nwhitman at ameritech.net>

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Neal Whitman <nwhitman at AMERITECH.NET>
> Subject:      'convicted' for 'convinced'
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Here's something my dad, who lives in Houston, brought to my attention.
> I'll
> quote his email:
> [begin quote]
> Yesterday I read a letter to the paper from a young woman who said she
> couldn't make up her mind whom she wanted to vote for in the primary
> election, so she had decided to wait until the general election and learn
> more about the candidates first, because she wanted her vote not to be a
> coin toss (though I think she said "to not be"); rather, she wanted to be
> "more convicted."  I was tempted to write a response, asking, "convicted
> of
> what -- murder, grand larceny, petty thievery, treason?"  I told [your
> mom]
> about the letter, and she asked me what that told me about the letter
> writer, and I said it told me that, whereas she was thinking clearly
> regarding not voting when she was clueless about what the candidates stood
> for, she was obviously an ignoramus as regards diction and vocabulary.
> [Your mom] said there was also another thing it told her:  that the woman
> was a "born again Christian," because they really liked to say how they
> were
> "convicted" in their faith.
> [end quote]
> Does anyone here know about this usage among born-again Christians
> compared
> to the general population? If my mom is right, have politicians used this
> word in "dog whistle" political speeches?
> Sociolinguistics aside, I think the word is an interesting example of what
> I
> call "implicit backformation" (though if someone knows an already-existing
> term for it I'll switch): We start with 'conviction' and get 'convict' by
> backformation, but we never actually hear this form; we only hear the
> result
> of the next step: 'convicted' by ordinary past-participle derivation. I
> think this story is more likely than semantic extension of the
> already-existing verb 'convict'.
> Neal Whitman
> Email: nwhitman at ameritech.net
> Blog: http://literalminded.wordpress.com
> Webpage: http://literalmindedlinguistics.com
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