Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Fri Oct 29 17:17:32 UTC 2010

On Fri, Oct 29, 2010 at 11:34 AM, Joel S. Berson wrote:
> At 10/29/2010 11:13 AM, Paul Frank wrote:
>>Incidentally, I don't see "subliterate" in my paper edition of the
>>OED2 and, being one of the great unwashed, I can't afford an online
> For your cleansing, it's in the OED, with earliest quotation from
> 1958.  It also has subliterature (1961), presumably what one reads
> while commuting on the subway.

I think "subliterate" is actually in the print OED2 -- it's just
difficult to find, buried under sense 19a of the prefix "sub-".
("Subliterature" is under 5c.)

And then there's "postliterate" ('of or designating a time or milieu
characterized by a decline in the importance or prevalence of the
written word'), which OED3 has from 1957, predating McLuhan. It
appeared in a satirical piece published in _American Anthropologist_,
"Ritual Value-Washing Among the Wienerkreiser" by Douglas N. Morgan:

Morgan's ethnographic spoof is in the same vein as Horace Miner's
"Body Ritual Among the Nacirema" published by _Amer. Anthro_ the
previous year:


Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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