protest = 'demonstrate in public to draw attention to'

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Apr 3 17:01:34 UTC 2010

When my generation protested the need for jobs, we were talking about a very
different issue.

I'm with Joel. To be a "telescoping" of "protest about the need,"
intrans._protest_ has to mean "take part in a public demonstration" (the NPR
ex. was of course trans.)

Somewhere there may be someone who uses the word that way, but for everyone
else a sentence like the following would still be logically impossible:

*OK, young Democrats, I want to see at least fifty of you protesting in
honor of President Obama's arrival tomorrow.  (Meaning "*demonstrating

In terms of semantics, "protesting the need for jobs" is like "has become an
advocate for" in that the once-apparent plain sense of the utterance is more
or less reversed, owing to a combination of changes in the semantic
associations of both "advocate" and "protest" along with complete
inattention to the form of what one is saying or writing.

Several factors are undoubtedly involved. But the switcheroo in these cases
is startling.



On Sat, Apr 3, 2010 at 10:09 AM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject:      Re: protest = 'demonstrate in public to draw attention to'
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 4/2/2010 10:57 PM, Arnold Zwicky wrote:
> >On Apr 2, 2010, at 3:05 PM, Jon Lighter wrote:
> >
> >>_All Things Considered_ reported this evening on about 36 teenagers
> >>who were
> >>chanting "We need jobs!" outside a municipal agency.
> >>
> >>According to the highly paid journalist-narrator, they were
> >>"protesting the
> >>need for jobs."
> >
> >this appears to be "protest" 'protest about' -- yet anoth
> >transitivizing P-drop, in addition to "protest" 'protest against'.
> Still, I wouldn't protest about the need for jobs.  (I don't think
> I'd even protest against the need for jobs.)  I'd protest about the
> lack of jobs.
> Joel
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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