1776 "difference without a distinction"

Charles C Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Tue Jun 19 18:39:40 UTC 2012

Yes, "a distinction without a difference":  The OED gives an instance from 1579.

It was clearly a fixed phrase by 1615:

"But the distinction is more subtile then sound; & if not a distinction without a difference, yet a division of things inseparable in this kynde." --John Robinson, _A Manumission to a Manuduction_ (1615), p. 9.

Perhaps the phrase "a difference without a distinction" has played upon the older expression?


From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of Jonathan Lighter [wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM]
Sent: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 12:47 PM


I've generally heard "a distinction without a difference."


On Tue, Jun 19, 2012 at 12:29 PM, David Barnhart <dbarnhart at highlands.com>wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       David Barnhart <dbarnhart at HIGHLANDS.COM>
> Subject:      1776 "difference without a distinction"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> . the northern and southern borders of the Tweed created in their
> inhabitants but a mere difference, without a distinction, and that virtue
> and good sense were equally common to both.
> Thomas Pennant.  A Tour in Scotland.  Vol. 2.  London: Benj. White, 1776,
>  p
> 282

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list