technical terminology in ordinary language

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun May 31 19:15:21 UTC 2009

At 1:43 PM -0400 5/31/09, Victor wrote:
>Hmm... Having hung around both lawyers and engineers, I can certainly
>attest to *engineers* using "camshaft" as a rather sarcastic euphemism.
>Don't know about mechanics...

Then there's "pistons" and "cylinders".  Not sure about "carburetors", though.

>As for "dispositive" and "colorable",
>they've been making their way into TV commentaries for some time now.

I think I've come across dispositive mostly in negative
environments--something that's not dispositive (of whether so-and-so)
in that it leaves the door open to other determinations


>Still, I have hardly heard it in "everyday chatter" anywhere outside of
>lawyer groups and academia. I suspect that most people who watch legal
>analysis on FNC are unlikely to adopt these two in there normal usage.
>    VS-)
>Arnold Zwicky wrote:
>>Lee Beck on Facebook:
>>Heard some lawyers throwing around the words "dispositive" and
>>"colorable" in everyday chatter... Imagining how they would react if a
>>mechanic used the word "camshaft" in a metaphoric way...
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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