ADS-L Digest - 13 May 2008 to 14 May 2008 (#2008-136)

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Thu May 15 14:15:07 UTC 2008

On May 14, 2008, at 9:18 PM, Your Name wrote:

> << Ron Butters writes: For me, "to daub" is 'to apply some amount
> of  a
> liquid or gelatinous substance to a small spot'. Whether (or not)
> this is  makeup,
> iodine to a wound, or cleaning fluid to a stain does not make any
> difference.
> "Daub" includes dealing with liquids that way; but consider the bird
> called
> a mud-dauber; it daubs a solid (tho somewhat moist) substance.
> I've  also
> heard of daubing paste onto paper, daubing sauce onto pasta, etc.
> FWIW, I've
> spent my whole life in upstate NYS, nowhere near Texas.
> I can't think of any context in which "daubing" could not be
> replaced with
> "dabbing."  I've always thot they were synonyms.

even dabbing sauce onto pasta?  what about the following uses from the
OED -- could "daub" be replaced by "dab" in them?

   laths daubed over with road-mud

   The women daub their hair with red clay.

   [of a painting] A lame, imperfect piece, rudely daubed over with
too little reflection, and too much haste.

i'm not doubting your report (and that of others), but for me daubing
has a semantic component of spreading that is lacking in dabbing.  so
i can *dab at* something, but not *daub at* it.  and i can *daub* a
substance *over* some object, but not *dab* it *over* that object.
presumably all of these are good for you.


The American Dialect Society -

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