Why the *s

Victor aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Mar 4 20:21:24 UTC 2009

Many email client applications convert thus highlighted text into bold.
Some preserve the original *s others do not. Similarly _underscores_
bracketing a word/phrase result in underlining. There may be other
conventions/conversions, but I have not been keeping track of them. I
guess, on a linguistics listserv, you have to do like with camels and
ask, one asterisk or two.


Arnold Zwicky 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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