LSSU Banished Words list, 2008

Dennis Preston preston at MSU.EDU
Thu Jan 3 13:39:41 UTC 2008

These are very interesting criteria:

Simple =
1 higher frequency (core?)
2 immediately retrievable meaning (but see  "precise")
3 longer life in the language (core?)
4 irregularity (morphological) overcome by frequency or core position

Precise = unambiguous or less ambiguous

It's also interesting that some of them can be determined by
historical fact (3), some by corpus counting (1), but the others
depend on psycholinguistic factors and seem to me to almost require
experimental evidence. We suspect, for example, that even
high-frequency irregulars get processed differently, but if that
slows down processing speed, that is not firmly in evidence.
It's especially interesting that a core position or long life in the
language would be used to guarantee simplicity since a long life
often predicts a great deal of semantic fluctuation in the core
meaning(s) of an item and/or to considerable alternative meanings,
not all metaphoric. (A traffic cop can write a ticket.)

I've always liked to tell my students that there nothing simple about
simplicity, although that glib line usually turns up in discussions
of pidgin-creole lgs.


>---------------------- 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
>By "simpler" I mean that "wrote" is a more common and more familiar =
>word, that its meaning is intuitive and immediately available to the =
>reader or listener, that it is a core English word where "authored" is a =
>relative neologism (not as much of a neologism as I would have guessed, =
>since M-W dates it to 1596, but it's centuries newer than "wrote").  =
>While "wrote" is an irregular verb, I don't think that makes its use =
>more complex to readers and listeners who know immediately that "wrote" =
>is the past tense of "write" (as they might not know, for example, that =
>"wrought" is the archaic past tense of "work").
>By "more precise," I mean that "wrote" conveys, I think typically =
>unambiguously (though exceptions could be produced), that the writer =
>composed the text of the work.  "Authored" can refer to any relationship =
>that would cause the person to be considered the author of a work.  It =
>also can refer more broadly to an act of creation.
>Because "authored" is often used in situations where the "author's" =
>relationship to the work is ambiguous, it seems plausible that one could =
>draw a negative implication from its use, but I have no evidence that =
>anyone actually does draw that negative implication.
>John Baker
>From: American Dialect Society on behalf of Dennis Preston
>Sent: Wed 1/2/2008 10:10 PM
>Subject: Re: LSSU Banished Words list, 2008
>What are your criteria that 'wrote' is
>1) simpler (I could argue that "wrote" is irregular and therefore more =
>2) more precise (I could argue that "wrote" is a very common word and
>therefore much more likely to be multiply ambiguous)
>3) carries this implication for all users/readers/hearers (Is this
>your impression only or have determined that this is indeed the
>implication for a significant number of persons? It doesn't for me,
>by the way.)?
>>---------------------- 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
>>          "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. =
>>"wrote" his book, not that he "authored" it.  "Wrote" is a simpler =
>>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
>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 -

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