[Ads-l] annals of acronymic etymythology

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Thu Aug 2 11:04:30 EDT 2018

On Thu, Aug 2, 2018 at 10:56 AM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu>

> > On Aug 2, 2018, at 10:42 AM, Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU>
> wrote:
> >
> >  Even etymological scholars have long been attracted to colorful,
> unfounded etymological theories.  But now, in a society where right-wing
> media and even the President of the United States are mounting an enormous
> assault on concepts of education, science, accuracy, truth, etc., is
> etymythology growing in popularity?  I am not asserting that it is growing
> in popularity, but it seems logical that it would in the aforementioned
> environment.  Another factor that might contribute to such growth is the
> decline in use of dictionaries.
> >
> Do we know for a fact that dictionaries are used less once online
> dictionaries (not counting the not *always* reliable urbandictionary) are
> factored in?  In addition to the usual suspects (Dictionary.com, AHD—OED of
> course requires a subscription), etymonline.com seems to be a resource
> that gets cited and it’s usually pretty good in my experience.

And as I note in the Atlantic piece, the online dictionaries get a nice
boost in traffic whenever an etymology meme is flying around.
Merriam-Webster saw a 25,300% increase in searches for "tag." (Not that
many people would have been motivated to look it up before... and those
that got to the entry were probably disappointed to see it given the
"origin unknown" treatment.)

> ________________________________
> > From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of
> Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM>
> > Sent: Thursday, August 2, 2018 9:47 AM
> > Subject: annals of acronymic etymythology
> >
> > For The Atlantic, I take a look at the latest bogus etymology meme to
> sweep
> > the Internet, asserting that "tag" (the game) stands for "touch and go."
> >
> > https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/08/th
> at-meme-youre-sharing-is-probably-bogus/566582/
> >
> > I'm hoping that if I keep repeating Larry Horn's term "etymythology"
> it'll
> > get some traction. Douglas Harper of the Online Etymology Dictionary
> chips
> > in with his own blend, "acronymphomania."
> >
> > https://www.etymonline.com/columns/post/acronymphomania

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