bootleg recessionistas

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Mon Oct 27 02:39:55 UTC 2008

On Sun, Oct 26, 2008 at 10:32 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
> At 9:56 PM -0400 10/26/08, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
> >>
> >>  Laurence Horn wrote:
> >>>  OK, "bootleg" isn't new, and I even have some Bootleg Dylan on my
> >>>  iTunes, but is anyone familiar with it in this apparently bleached or
> >>>  shifted sense as used by Matt Stairs below?
> >>>
> >>>  "It's disappointing and some guys were extremely mad about it,"
> >>>  Stairs said early Friday evening after the team's workout at Citizens
> >>>  Bank Park. "I think it's bootleg when you have the World Series and
> >>>  guys are jogging out to the line and they don't take the extra five
> >>>  minutes to introduce the players."
> >
> >Fits this Double-Tongued definition pretty well ("inferior,
> >unappealing, worthless" -- cites from 2001):
> >
> >
> >
> Hmmm.  Actually, that use of "bootleg", which I suppose is a
> generalization of the item in my lexicon in the sense that it no
> longer has a causal connection to the source of the bootleggery
> (ripping off the rightful owner, copyright possessor, etc.) and
> retains only the connotation of poor quality associated with such
> items, works pretty well for that website I noted, and the poem it
> contains.  But the cite from Stairs would then involve a further
> transfer, since "bootleg" applies here not to an item of inferior
> quality (of whatever origin) but to a decision of which he disparages
> as unfair.  I guess "bogus" may have undergone a similar shift
> ('counterfeit, fake' > 'no good')

Ah, I see. Well, that sense of unfairness is implied in some other "bootleg"
cites out there, as in this one from the Double-Tongued entry:

2003 [Jonathan] Wonder Jonathan (June 17) “Major Bitch”: I just checked out that
Friendster website that Oz makes reference to, and I thoroughly don’t understand
it. To be able to actually see other’s profiles, you have to invite people who
in turn invite other people. Then to actually see anyone else other than
yourself, people you invite have to acutally join the site themselves. Sorry
Oz...that’s bootleg.

Or this from Urban Dictionary:

Although the real word means pirated music/software and illegal alcohol, the
slang term means wrong, broken, fake, or bullshit
Person 1: "Hey, the teacher gave me detention for no reason!"
Person 2: "Man that's bootleg!"

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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