"select for"

Jim Parish jparish at SIUE.EDU
Fri Nov 25 15:54:59 UTC 2011

Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> Dig it: OED has no def. for this universally used Darwinian phrase.
> I've always found it to be rather opaque: why are biological
> characteristics selected "for" instead of "selected" or "selected for
> preservation"?  Whenever I read it, I feel I'm missing something
> crucial and subtle.
I assume that "select for" is used to allow for the reverse, "select
against". (A hypothetical "select against preservation" seems ungainly,

Jim Parish

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

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