'convicted' for 'convinced'

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu Mar 27 13:11:10 UTC 2008

Neal writes that his father writes:

"... she wanted her vote _not to be_ a coin toss (though I think she
said 'to not be') ..."

Neal, your father is a great man. It's impossible to for him _not to be_ one.

(Though I now live in Boston, I was born in Marshall and have lived in
Galveston, Beaumont, and Port Arthur, as well as in Houston.)


On Thu, Mar 27, 2008 at 12:35 AM, Neal Whitman <nwhitman at ameritech.net> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
>  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
>  ------------------------------------------------------------
>  The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
 -Sam'l Clemens

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