Why the *s

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Wed Mar 4 20:04:13 UTC 2009

On Mar 4, 2009, at 11:45 AM, Bill Palmer wrote:

> I see many posts on this list with words that are bracketed by
> asterisks.  I
> know that an asterisk prior to a word denotes an unattested form,
> but I
> don't know what two of them mean.  Is it just a stray mark
> introduced by
> cyberspace or the peculiarities of the list software...  Or does it
> have a particular meaning in linguistics, or possibly to list
> subscribers?

it's an orthographic convention for indicating emphasis in "plain
text" postings.  it originated in newsgroups and mailing lists where
other indications of emphasis (italics, bold face) were unavailable to
many posters and unreadable by others.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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