Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Mar 11 03:05:53 UTC 2012

On Mar 10, 2012, at 7:43 PM, Joel S. Berson wrote:

> At 3/10/2012 11:35 AM, Laurence Horn wrote:
>> On Mar 10, 2012, at 11:09 AM, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>> > But isn't it just the -er suffix -- "forming derivative ns. with the
>> > general sense 'a man who has to do with (the thing denoted by the
>> > primary n.)'"
>> isn't that too general a gloss?  why not "one that ___s"? (since
>> instrumentals as well as agents are possible, as in cookers,
>> blenders, choppers, food-processors, etc.)
> Your quarrel here, Larry, is with the OED, not me.  :-)
I have no quarrel with the OED on -er, I don't think, other than I find its entry, or rather entries, annoyingly opaque. Most instances of productive -er seem to correspond to the OED's -er suffix 2 rather than -er 1, and to be agentives derived from verbs rather than derivatives of nouns.  Looking in, say, AHD4, there's a straightforward -er entry with the first two entries

One that performs a specified action: swimmer.
One that undergoes or is capable of undergoing a specified action: broiler.

--which is what I had in mind.  A blogger is one that blogs, not a man that has something to with blogs; note that just because we may want to refer to 'a man [sic] that has to do with books', we can't decide (easily) to call him a booker.  In fact, a booker would be someone/something that books (maybe someone in authority who books you for an offense).  The denominal -er forms exist but with some exceptions (place names, for example) they're not nearly as productive as their deverbal cousins.  
>> > -- that one is concerned with?
>> >     actor -- actress
>> >     blogger --  blogress
>> >     troller [not "troll"] -- trolless
>> >     monster -- monstrous
>> There are many attestations for both "monstress" (including a comic
>> book hero(ine) of that name) and "monsteress" (as in "Cookie
>> Monsteress", "sexy monsteress", inter al.). Perhaps the version with
>> the extra syllable is motivated by the desire to avoid homonymy with
>> the adjective "monstrous".  "Bloggeress" exists too, but is vastly
>> outnumbered by "blogress", which comes complete with expected puns
>> ("A pilgrim's blogress").
> I was of course trying to be humerous with monstrous.

And I was being (relatively) serious about the effect of "monstrous" as plausibly blocking the free formation of "monstress", or at least its effect in making "monsteress" slightly more likely than it would otherwise be.  


The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list