"to cheapen"

golnaz jamalifar golnaz_jamalifar at YAHOO.COM
Sat Mar 24 19:27:15 UTC 2012

As far as its usage is concerned ,I have used it many times meaning to bargain about the price of something ,or asking the seller to give you some 
discount. I don't have any clear dictionary based evidence unfortunatly.


 From: Joel S. Berson <Berson at ATT.NET>
Sent: Saturday, March 24, 2012 11:48 PM
Subject: "to cheapen"
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Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
Subject:      "to cheapen"

I am having a disagreement with someone about the meaning(s) of "to
cheapen" in the late 18th century.  He claims it could simply have
meant "ask the price of" something.  I claim it always would have the
connotation of bargaining.

He cites Johnson (and other 18th century dictionaries):

>To Cheapen v.a.
>1. To attempt to purchase; to bid for anything; to ask the price of
>any commodity.
>2. To lessen value.

and asserts that "to ask the price of any commodity" here simply
means "to ask what the price is", without any connotation of "to
(begin to) bargain, to negotiate".

He also says "So what we would take as the primary meaning, 'to
lessen value', he has as the secondary meaning."  But "to bid", which
definitely is bargaining, is equally a part of Johnson's sense 1, his
"primary meaning", as is "to ask what the price is"!  I see an error
in logic here, my opponent moving "To attempt to purchase; to bid for
anything" from sense 1 to sense 2 so that "to ask the price of any
commodity" would stand alone.

I cite the OED:

>1.a.  To bargain for, ask the price of, bid for, offer a price for;
>= cheap v. 3.

and the four quotations thereunder (all of which have the connotation
of bargaining) and assert that the four phrases are simply
alternative wordings to explain to modern readers *a single meaning*,
so "ask the price of" is "to inquire what the 'asking price' is".

Do the learned members of this list have opinions, and can they
provide evidence?


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