Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Thu Feb 3 00:21:05 UTC 2000

Nope, Fred, but I almost see why my message may have made you think that.
Actually, by "old-timey" I meant exactly the erroneous etymology you
describe. I am still a little puzzled why so many people took my
"old-timey" to mean "authentic."


>On Wed, 2 Feb 2000, Dennis R. Preston wrote:
>> language as well. I think Gerald would agree that the writing first items
>> he cites are simply exceptions which prove (but do not tarnish) the rule.
>> dInIs (who threw in the old-timey use of "prove" just to startle you)
>As if to prove my point about the prevalence of etymological
>misinformation, Dennis is here subscribing to the common but erroneous
>explanation of the phrase "the exception proves the rule."  Many people
>will strongly maintain that this phrase uses "proves" in an old sense of
>"tests."  In fact, the meaning of the phrase is that "by specifying the
>cases excepted, one strengthens the hold of the rule over all cases not
>excepted" (Bryan Garner).
>Fred R. Shapiro                             Coeditor (with Jane Garry)
>Associate Librarian for Public Services     TRIAL AND ERROR: AN OXFORD
>  and Lecturer in Legal Research            ANTHOLOGY OF LEGAL STORIES
>Yale Law School                             Oxford University Press, 1998
>e-mail: fred.shapiro at yale.edu               ISBN 0-19-509547-2

Dennis R. Preston
Department of Linguistics and Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
preston at pilot.msu.edu
Office: (517)353-0740
Fax: (517)432-2736

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