-er(s) in the Times

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Sun Nov 22 05:35:44 UTC 2009

> No, not the usual productive suffix, but a specific derogatory
> spinoff as in "truther", "birther", "tea-bagger" and earlier
> "flat-earther" (and I guess contemporary "young earther", if I didn't
> just make that up, with its neo-Goethian overtones).

I guess it's derogatory if it's used derogatorily. "Flat-earther" is
generally derogatory because "flat-earthism" is generally derogated, I
guess. "Free-willer" likewise ... because it is/was a designation used
only by non-free-willers, I suppose.

What of formally comparable terms such as [opposed] "big-bangers" and
"steady-staters" (in casual discussions of astrophysics), or
"Copenhageners" and "many-worlders" (in casual quantum mechanics)? Me, I
don't see any 'derogatory' influence of the "-er" in such cases. It's
just a little bit casual, I guess.

-- Doug Wilson

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

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