[Ads-l] Definition of "saying"

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Sat May 2 11:16:44 UTC 2015

I don't disagree with what Mark says about this definition being excessively broad and weak.  But, FWIW, I use "saying" in my articles as a broad and weak synonym for "quotation" (to avoid my constantly repeating the word "quotation" -- I don't know of any other alternative word useful for that purpose besides "quote").  I also used "saying" in the Yale Book of Quotations as a broad and weak residual category for anonymous expressions of unknown origins that didn't fit into other categories such as proverbs or political slogans or advertising slogans or nursery rhymes or television catchphrases.  Subsequently Charlie Doyle pointed out to me that my definition of "proverb" in the YBQ was confused and not in accord with the definition used by proverb scholars, but my point is that "saying" is a convenient term to use broadly in contrast to other more specific terms.

While writing the above, it occurs to me that the way I use the word "quotation" itself is actually different from the traditional definition.  Traditionally the word is used to mean "something that is quoted," whereas I use it to mean "a notable expression or passage, regardless of whether it is quoted by others."

Fred Shapiro

From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of Mark Mandel [thnidu at GMAIL.COM]
Sent: Friday, May 01, 2015 11:46 PM
Subject: Fwd: Definition of "saying"

I just sent this to Houghton Mifflin, re their online version of the
American Heritage, 5 edn., via the only electronic contact I could find on
their website that seemed even remotely hopeful.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: "Mark Mandel" <thnidu at gmail.com>
Date: May 1, 2015 11:39 PM
Subject: Definition of "saying"
To: <trade.webmaster at hmhco.com>

Please pass this along to the editorial board of the A.H.Dictionary:

Your online definition of "saying" (
https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__www.ahdictionary.com_word_search.html-3Fq-3Dsaying&d=AwIFaQ&c=-dg2m7zWuuDZ0MUcV7Sdqw&r=sRkhHMQo6W5Ird1lkQFqb23bCfSHAR2XjUSUG53db5M&m=eOohnA9Ri-nTJ_rU6rbGAAVeVKPne2KosKD0fO6lgno&s=NPpgS69fRsHhNpBlv1V75BnvaQjmuLFBHQ_1SlLexmI&e= ) is unacceptably
broad and weak:

Something, such as an adage or maxim, that is said.

Though immediately followed by a list of synonyms with amplified
definitions -  saying, maxim, adage, saw², aphorism - it does nothing to
specify what distinguishes a saying, or one of these synonyms, from
anything else "that is said", such as
• Bring me a hamburger, medium rare.
• Ouch!
• We hold these truths to be self-evident.
• The keeper would a-hunting go.

Inadequate! and unworthy of your dictionary and its heritage.

Mark A. Mandel

The American Dialect Society - https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__www.americandialect.org&d=AwIFaQ&c=-dg2m7zWuuDZ0MUcV7Sdqw&r=sRkhHMQo6W5Ird1lkQFqb23bCfSHAR2XjUSUG53db5M&m=eOohnA9Ri-nTJ_rU6rbGAAVeVKPne2KosKD0fO6lgno&s=tFRvN1b6G4ZqmCkAVW8-pDpRzzCQUcxNiioGXZbkxZg&e=

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

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