LSSU Banished Words list, 2008

Thu Jan 3 00:23:17 UTC 2008

        "Problematic" uses - of the kind I talk about below - do peeve
me.  It seems to me to be better in every way to say that Philip K. Dick
"wrote" his book, not that he "authored" it.  "Wrote" is a simpler word,
it is more precise, and it avoids the unpleasant and false implication
that Dick may have put his name on a work that was not entirely his.

        When I suggested that the sportswriter's use was "precious," I
meant that he was trying a little too hard for a high-falutin effect.
It is not a sufficiently annoying or consistent objection with me to be
a peeve.

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf
Of Dennis Preston
Sent: Wednesday, January 02, 2008 6:49 PM
Subject: Re: LSSU Banished Words list, 2008

When you find these uses 'problematic' and 'precious,' do they peeve


>---------------------- Information from the mail header
>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:       "Baker, John" <JMB at STRADLEY.COM>
>Subject:      Re: LSSU Banished Words list, 2008
>         I may have been too broad in my condemnation of "authored."  I

>just did a search for uses of "authored" using Google News, to see how
>it is being used in edited text.  Most uses there fall into one of the
>following categories:
>         1.      As a synonym for "wrote" or "written":  "Philip Dick
>authored his sci-fi novel 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.'"  This

>was the sense I was criticizing.
>         2.      In contexts where document ownership is implied, but
>"wrote" or "written" likely would be inappropriate.  This seems to come

>up particularly in news reports about legislation (likely a bias
>introduced by using a news database):  "A number of new state laws
>authored by two Silicon Valley state senators will take effect today."
>This also arises where there is institutional authorship:  "The Office
>of Strategic Services authored in late June 1945 one of the first
>position papers to address occupation policy toward minorities."
>         3.      In contexts betraying uncertainty as to whether
>or "written" would be appropriate:  "Bonanno was famous for his
>family's ties to the Mafia, books he authored about them and time spent

>in a federal prison camp."
>         4.      In the broader sense of the term:  "Darren McFadden,
>Arkansas' junior running back, gained 105 yards on 21 carries but never

>authored a breathtaking run."
>         5.      To show a parallel with "co-authored":  "The site says
>he has authored or co-authored five books and has a Ph.D. in psychology

>from Emory University."
>         Only the first of these categories really seems problematic to

>me, although the example with Darren McFadden strikes me as a bit
>John Baker
>-----Original Message-----
>From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On
>Behalf Of Dave Wilton
>Sent: Wednesday, January 02, 2008 5:06 PM
>Subject: Re: LSSU Banished Words list, 2008
>I kind of like "authored." In this world of ghostwritten books, it
>serves a useful purpose. To "author" a book is to claim the words as
>one's own, regardless of whether or not one actually wrote them.
>-----Original Message-----
>From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On
>Behalf Of Baker, John
>Sent: Wednesday, January 02, 2008 9:17 AM
>Subject: Re: LSSU Banished Words list, 2008
>         Once again, we see how effective a list like this can be at
>obtaining publicity.  I think I am not alone in having no other
>knowledge of Lake Superior State University.
>         What I find most striking is the presence of several specific
>and useful words on this list.  Webinar, waterboarding, surge (when
>used in reference to the 2007 temporary increase in U.S. forces in
>Iraq), and Black Friday are all needed terms for which there are no
>equally handy alternatives.
>         Their complaints on "give back," "emotional," and that old
>stand-by, "decimate," just seem silly, while phrases like "X is the new

>Y" and "under the bus" are fads that will run their course in any case.
>But I am with them on author/authored.
>John Baker
>The American Dialect Society -

Dennis R. Preston
University Distinguished Professor
Department of English
Morrill Hall 15-C
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48864 USA

The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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