ancestor = "descendant"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Thu Mar 1 22:39:22 UTC 2007

Oh, Barbara, pleease do.

  BTW, more semanticdrift: newspersons and others are increasingly using "shocked" (which for most of us has strong overtones of disturbance and dismay) to mean "surprised" in neutral or even positive contexts.

  More of tomorrow's Inglish.


Barbara Need <nee1 at MIDWAY.UCHICAGO.EDU> wrote:
  ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Barbara Need
Subject: Re: ancestor = "descendant"

At 15:00 -0500 01/3/07, Laurence Horn wrote:
>At 9:30 AM -0800 3/1/07, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>>Observe how the presence of "descended" and a normal "ancestor"
>>makes no difference:
>> 2007 Christopher A. Brochu, John Long, Colin McHenry, et al.
>>_Dinosaurs_ (rev. ed.) (S.F.: Fog City Press) 105 (caption): Birds
>>are the living ancestors of the dinosaurs that became extinct at the
>>end of the Cretaceous period. Alligators and crocodiles are not
>>directly descended from the dinosaurs, but they share a common
>>ancestor through the archosaurs.
>> No dinosaur ever descended from birds. Quite the contrary.
>> As all the authors but one hold Ph.Ds, the caption was presumably
>>written by an unnamed picture editor. Explaining the ex. as a "mere"
>>lapsus begs the question. Why this particular lapsus?
>> The book otherwise appears to be impeccably proof-read.
>Someone must have substituted an "ancestor" with a "descendant". Or
>vice versa. Hard to imagine a PhD doing so, let alone a native

Well, I don't have it at hand, but the article in Tribune that
reported on the "relationship" between Al Sharpton and Strom Thurmond
(was Sharpton easily "shocked", or have I become truly cynical?) says
uses _descendant_ for _ancestor_. If someone cares for the details, I
will check my print version.


Barbara Need

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