Sacrifice = opportunity cost

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Thu Aug 2 01:13:17 UTC 2012

All the Olympians have "sacrificed," in the more traditional sense of the
word, is time they could have spent loafing and partying, which, let's face
it, is pretty important by modern standards.

The current questionable usage, though, seems so well established (at least
in connection with athletes and celebrities) that it may be pointless to
worry about it.

"To put in endless hours of effort at the expense of comparatively trivial
things" seems to be the more recent meaning. "She's made so many
sacrifices" = "She's exhibited extraordinary single-mindedness of effort."

At least that's what these words seem to mean to me. And they must mean


On Wed, Aug 1, 2012 at 7:23 PM, Benjamin Barrett <gogaku at>wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Benjamin Barrett <gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Sacrifice = opportunity cost
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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 The OED seems to be outdated.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
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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