"empath" as lexicographic lacuna

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Nov 24 16:08:18 UTC 2008

Acrostic spoiler ahead...

Word P in yesterday's NYT Acrostic is clued as "One who knows how you
feel", and I inferred  the correct answer, _EMPATH_, partly by virtue
of an instance of synchronicity that points to an odd omission:  In
_The Narrows_, a 2004 novel by Michael Connelly I'm currently
reading, the term is applied to those FBI agents who take their cases
personally.  I was curious about when the word was first attested,
and to my surprise _empath_ is unlisted in either the (online) OED or
AHD4, despite the fact that it has both a wikipedia entry (albeit
largely devoted to the science-fiction ESP-y variety of empath as
opposed to the more general sense invoked by Connelly's FBI agent and
the Acrostic designers) and "about 730,000" raw g-hits for the word.


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

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