Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Thu Jan 31 21:55:37 UTC 2008

Not a reversal, I think, just a different sense: "smart person."  HDAS cites the Rev. Jesse Jackson's use of this term in 1969.


Damien Hall <halldj at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU> wrote:
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Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Damien Hall
Subject: Brainchild

Heard on Fox News Philadelphia last night (30 January):

'The brainchild [of the Smart car] is the same guy responsible for Swatch

This seems like a semantic 'reversal' of a type that I think is common but whose
label I don't know, maybe a bit akin to the transitive-intransitive reversal in
"I notice you have a stain on your shirt" -> "I can't wear this shirt; the
stain will notice" (= be noticeable). (A friend of mine says that, and I don't
think she's the only one.)

Anyway, this 'reversed' sense of 'brainchild' to mean 'person who came up with
the idea' isn't in *OED*. It may be a nonce use - difficult to Google for -
but here it is, FWIW. I'm sure that the concept of the brain as the origin of
ideas, and the concept of 'child prodigy', come into this somewhere too.

Damien Hall
University of Pennsylvania

The American Dialect Society -

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