semantic drift: "platoon"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Fri Jan 25 21:55:11 UTC 2008

Before my generally quasi-impeccable usage is cited by the syntacticians of tomorrow, the  structure >formations of a several dozen soldiers each< contains an intrusive and blunderiferous "a."  I wrote "a few," then tried to fix it.

  I apologize for any inconvenience.

  P.S.: I just made up "blundiferous."  Some day you'll thank me.


  Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
  ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Wilson Gray
Subject: Re: semantic drift: "platoon"

Poor Stanley! And curse that Michael Webster and his little school,
which routinely kicked UC Davis's ass in football, too!

The Great-Souled One we can forgive as being a non-native speaker.


On 1/24/08, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender: American Dialect Society
> Poster: Jonathan Lighter
> Subject: semantic drift: "platoon"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Here it means "a contingent of (any number of) soldiers." Not in OED.
> 1905 in Mohandas Gandhi _The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi_ IV 1 [] : A platoon of 14,371 men was sent out to China, when the Boxer Rebellion broke out in that country.
> ca2006 Michael Webster _Iliad: Reading Assignments_ : Catalogue of Ships and Men. The troops are outlined here, first those of the Danaans... There are 29 "platoons."... Note that Agamemnon has the largest platoon; Telamonian Ajax has the smallest. The Trojan platoons and their allies are described last.
> Dr. Webster is Associate Professor of Engliah at Grand Valley State University, Michigan.
> Webster's text is Stanley Lombardo's translation of the Iliad. So far as I can tell, Lombardo uses the word only to refer to formations of a several dozen soldiers each.
> JL
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