Linguistic dark matter

Fri Dec 17 17:49:08 UTC 2010

        The authors' point is that their corpus is a useful tool for
identifying both low-frequency but valid words that should be included
in dictionaries and words that are in dictionaries but have now fallen
entirely out of use ("diestock" and "alkalescent" are their examples of
the latter).

        The 52% estimate is quite misleading, since it does not tell us
anything at all interesting.  For example, a few minutes ago Word's
spell-checker informed me that the word "uncertificated" is not in its
dictionary.  "Uncertificated" refers to stocks, bonds, and other
securities that are not evidenced by certificates.  Its meaning is
transparent in context and when delivered to its intended audience.
Does it need to be in dictionaries?  (It may in fact be in unabridged
dictionaries; I haven't checked and don't think that really affects my
argument.)  But, by their standard, it would certainly qualify as a

        Whether the corpus is in actuality such a useful tool is a
different question.  Is "diestock" really not a good word anymore?  A
quick Google search suggests that it's still in use, but is now usually
spelled "die stock."

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf
Of Jonathan Lighter
Sent: Friday, December 17, 2010 11:38 AM
Subject: Re: Linguistic dark matter

And How many of those "dark" words are unnaturalized foreign words in
English contexts?

Of course, I imagine their definition of "word" is airtight. Frequent
two-word compounds, for example, many of which require no dictiomnary
can be multiplied almost ad lib. Probably the original article
addresses such issues, but at this point I'd be less than honest if I
said I


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