"Hot seat" on ADS-L

Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Fri Oct 19 21:40:45 UTC 2012

The press in general is unwilling to correct errors relating to etymology.
The problem is not just with the journalists that Barry cites. Evidently,
etymology not important enough to warrant a correction when they get it

But it's not just etymology, either. The press is generally unwilling to
correct any error of fact. They will correct errors of reporting (misquotes,
misidentifications, etc.), but not errors of fact. Seriously, go to any list
of newspaper corrections and you will find the overwhelming majority, to the
exclusion of almost all else, are corrections of errors in reporting.
Journalists are evidently not interested in relating the truth to their
readers; they consider their sole responsibility to be to report accurately.
(Accuracy has nothing to do with being correct.)

But then again, studies have shown that issuing corrections only ends up
reinforcing the false belief in the minds of the readers. (They see the
error twice, and the correct fact only once.) So maybe we're better off.

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
Cohen, Gerald Leonard
Sent: Friday, October 19, 2012 4:48 PM
Subject: FW: "Hot seat" on ADS-L

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 truth.
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

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

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