antedate for "pejorist"

Geoffrey Nunberg nunberg at ISCHOOL.BERKELEY.EDU
Fri Nov 25 04:58:08 UTC 2011

"Mr. Stickney is always original and thoughtful, even if his views do not always command general acceptance, and although he is a little of a -- we will not say pessimist, but coin for the occasion the expression -- pejorist." Albany Law Jrnl. Vol 20, 1879. The OED gives the first cite from 1890. (It has 'pejorism' from 1878.)

The sense of that use isn't entirely clear in context, but the OED gives "A person who believes that the world is becoming worse." I like this more than "declinism," which Lane Greene and others have used for the belief that the language is going to hell in a handwhatever. I'll give you that the latter is more transparent,  and it gets a fair number of contemporary hits. But it feels to me like an awkward makeshift, and other than an irrelevant botanical sense has no historical roots. The first cite for 'declinism' in Google Books is from 1963 in reference to views on the economy (; the OED doesn't list it. And inasmuch as we linguists are so fond of pointing out that these complaints have an antique history, you'd figure  we wouldn't need to produce a modern word for them. (The linguists' argument has a long history, too: as Montesquieu observed about the line of lamentations about the decline of virtue that stretched back to Horace, " If all of this we!
 re true, we would be bears today.")


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