[ADS-L] Re: † † † Re: [AD S-L] lexical query

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Mon Sep 3 19:01:41 UTC 2007

On Sep 3, 2007, at 11:01 AM, Ron Butters wrote:

> I onder if the problem with people misunderstanding the question
> isn't that
> the likelihood of an answer isn't nil. What word is there in
> English that
> simultaneously means X and Y?

thousands, at least.  as a first approximation (at least) "boy" means
both 'child' and 'male', "lesbian" means both 'homosexual' and
'female', etc.  but that's not the sort of answer my friend was
looking for.

> Or have I just had some kind of mental block here along with
> everyone else
> who has responded to this weird question)?

i don't think the question is at all weird.  linguists are often
asked if there's any language that has "a word for X", where X is a
characterization of some concept.  does any language have a word for
a child who has lost one (but not both) parents -- that is, for
someone who simultaneously is  a child and has lost one parent and
has not lost both (note conjunctive characterization)?  yes, there
is, as we noted here some time ago; there are even dialects of
english with "half-orphan" for this concept.

in previous postings, i gave an example of a situation that would be
an instance of both-blessing-and-curse, and from this it should be
easy for you to think of others (alison murie has now supplied
another example).  the question is whether there is (in any language)
a general term covering all such situations (and only those).

> At any rate, an example of a word
> that DOES fit the bill would be very helpful here.

it's not hard to think of words that refer to specific events or
occasions or phenomena that are both blessings and curses. (stephen
goranson has just added "karma" to the list.)  again, the question is
whether there's a general term covering all of these, and if i had
the answer to *that* question i wouldn't have posted to the list in
the first place.


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

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