FW: "Hot seat" on ADS-L

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at MST.EDU
Fri Oct 19 20:48:05 UTC 2012

The terms "prescriptivism" and "descriptivism"  do not pertain to etymology. If an etymology is incorrect (e.g. the origin of "hot dog" from a T.A. Dorgan Polo Grounds cartoon ca. 1900), one is not obliged to regard it as having validity simply because various journalists still present it as accurate. This is really quite basic.

With regard to one ads-l message concerning "hot seat," Barry Popik sent the reply below to me (and a few other ads-l members), and I now forward it to the ads-l listserv.

Gerald Cohen
From: Barry Popik [bapopik at aol.com]
Sent: Friday, October 19, 2012 2:44 PM
Subject: "Hot seat" on ADS-L

"Linguistic bullying?" No, no, no. Rachel Maddow falsely declared, in a
pre-scripted segment, that NO ONE knew the origin of "hot seat," and
then proceeded to develop her own folk etymology on the air. She
declared that the chairs in interrogation rooms get physically hot from
light bulbs. I said that was ridiculous and doubted if that's true; the
term "hot seat" is an extension from "electric chair."
Historical etymology and truth is not "bullying" or "malicious." Maddow
should have looked in a dictionary before going on the air. She's made
errors like this many times before (care for the "lobbyist" myth one
more time?) and has never corrected them, even after being told the
I do not say this because of Maddow's politics. People here should know
that I've long been frustrated by similar errors from Glenn Beck and
Lew Rockwell and Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney and many
others--all too lazy or unskilled to check the Internet or even respond
to their email.
Barry Popik
Austin, TX
>>And so, prescriptive etymology is just another form of
linguistic bullying. In this case, it is a futile, malicious
interference with a natural semantic process, an extension of meaning evolving into a
semantic change.<<
"Presciptive" etymology? Maliciious? Huh?
>>BP's responsibility must be to record usage, not prescribe it.<<
The discussion was about word origins, not usage prescriptions. Maybe
only 1% are interested in word origins, but if you're going on
television to talk about it you should at least look things up.

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

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