Sacrifice = opportunity cost

Benjamin Barrett gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM
Wed Aug 1 23:23:22 UTC 2012

On Aug 1, 2012, at 9:43 AM, Laurence Horn wrote:

> On Aug 1, 2012, at 4:44 AM, Benjamin Barrett wrote:
>> My partner (Japanese native) pointed out today that the use by Olympians of the word "sacrifice" is odd. I had trouble fingering his objection, but then he pointed out that what they are calling sacrifices are choices not sacrifices.
>> The OED seems to be outdated. The closest is: " The destruction or surrender of something valued or desired for the sake of something having, or regarded as having, a higher or a more pressing claim; the loss entailed by devotion to some other interest; also, the thing so devoted or surrendered."
>> The AHD ( says: "Forfeiture of something highly valued for the sake of one considered to have a greater value or claim."
>> Olympians and athletes in general certainly do give up a lot in their pursuit of athletics, but this seems to be less lofty: opportunity cost; the giving up of something in the pursuit of something else (more highly valued).
> So you're telling me that my assumption that the athletes are referring to having made burnt offerings of oxen and goats to Zeus before the trials is unwarranted?  Who knew?

I'm not sure whether this is just a joke, or whether you think that this meaning of sacrifice is so well embedded in the word as to be unworthy of note.

I don't know what this word was like 50 years ago, but my sense is that there is a change.

Benjamin Barrett
Seattle, WA

The American Dialect Society -

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