[Ads-l] Amelioration of "infamous"?

Joel Berson berson at ATT.NET
Fri Sep 23 22:23:02 EDT 2016


In the 1740s, there was “the famous or rather infamous Tom Bell”, an itinerant confidence man and dismissed Harvard student.  Quote from Boston Post Boy, 22 Aug. 1743.


Joel


      From: Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
 To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU 
 Sent: Friday, September 23, 2016 6:17 PM
 Subject: Re: [ADS-L] Amelioration of "notoriety"
   
I

"Notoriety" for me (and, I believe, most people ) is negative or (perhaps)
slightly or humorously ambivalent.

The _Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus_ (2004) offers the following
synonyms (only) for "notoriety":

"infamy, disrepute, ill repute, bad name, dishonor, discredit; _dated_ ill
fame." "Positive" notoriety used to be called fame, celebrity, renown,
public recognition,  prominence, eminence, greatness, stature, repute,
stardom, popularity, etc.

Seems like plenty to choose from. Positive "notoriety" strikes me as an
intentionally playful usage of the _People_ magazine type: cf. "infamous."

II

For "notorious," Oxford gives

"infamous, scandalous; well known, famous, famed, legendary."

A typical context is given as "_a notorious gunman of the Old West_."

But I doubt one would speak of "the notorious ['legendary'] King Arthur,"
"the notorious ['famous'] Abraham Lincoln," or "Robert Frost's notorious
['well known']  'Stopping by Woods."

Or am I misusing the Thesaurus?

JL

On Fri, Sep 23, 2016 at 3:09 PM, Galen Buttitta <
satorarepotenetoperarotas3 at gmail.com> wrote:

> For me, "notoriety" defaults to a positive connotation. "Notorious" is
> negative.
>
> > On Sep 23, 2016, at 13:30, Marisa Brook <marisa.brook at MAIL.UTORONTO.CA>
> wrote:
> >
> > Michigan State lost a beloved alumnus recently at the age of 24 and the
> campus store has been handing out copies of his obituary.<
> http://obits.mlive.com/obituaries/grandrapids/obituary.aspx?pid=180805567>
> After three graceful, glowing paragraphs describing the young man's
> accomplishments and family, the fourth paragraph begins as follows:
> >
> >
> > "Sadler gained notoriety for influencing others through communication."
> >
> >
> > After that, we get a description of his reportedly well-liked social
> media presence, which is said to have involved "humor, wit, and philosophy".
> >
> >
> > Seems to be a use of the word to mean 'popularity' (or at least
> 'considerable attention') - in a non-facetious obituary in a medium where
> the words were likely to have been carefully chosen. I'm intrigued. Has
> anyone else noticed cases of this?
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > ***************************
> > Marisa Brook
> > Assistant Professor
> > Department of Linguistics & Germanic, Slavic, Asian and African Languages
> > Michigan State University
> > East Lansing, Michigan 48824-1027 USA
> > http://linglang.msu.edu/people/faculty/marisa-brook/
> >
> >
> > ------------------------------------------------------------
> > The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>



-- 
"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

------------------------------------------------------------
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