how to say this?

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sun Aug 9 15:36:13 UTC 2009

Once again you're using reason when people's diction and prejudice have very
little to do with it.

What makes you think that the person who framed the question could not have
framed it on the basis of semantic dissonance?

We live in a world where "moist" is now regarded as offensive, and where at
least one linguist explains it by the presence of /oy/. Or so it is

Let's not forget the students who write "thats" instead of the "whose" in
relation to an inanimate object "because 'who' is only for people."

In that cultural context, some semantic dissonance between the two senses of
"party" - to the extent that the inquirer would not apply "party" to lone
diner - seems plausible to me.


On Sun, Aug 9, 2009 at 10:17 AM, Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at> wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at STANFORD.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: how to say this?
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Aug 8, 2009, at 9:21 AM, Jon Lighter wrote:
> >
> > Deep in my soul I do believe that whoever framed the cited question
> > avoided
> > the word "party" from a perceived dissonance between "party" in the
> > more
> > usual sense and the concept of "party of one" and maybe even "...of
> > two,"
> > irrespective of established usage.
> this strikes me as very far-fetched, given the grossly different
> semantics; the "party" of "give a party" is an event noun, but the
> "party" of "party of one", etc. is a collective noun.
> > The youthful hosts/hostesses I interact with often ask, "And how
> > many at
> > your table this evening?" or "How many will be dining with you/us this
> > evening?" Etc. They also call for "Table for one/ two/ five," more
> > often (I
> > tend to believe) than "Party of...." That's not say that "party" is
> > on the
> > way out,
> note that i offered the formulation with "party" as *a* (semantically
> coherent) way of framing the question, not as *the* way.
> > but it might be interesting to look into this possible dissonance
> > as a contributor to incipient usage change.
> you seem to be claiming that "how many are in your party today?" and
> the like are ambiguous.  i don't see it, even out of context; the
> preposition "in" pretty much excludes the event reading of "party".
> and in context there's no possible effective ambiguity.
> arnold
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