Fw: [ADS-L] yoda as a generic

ronbutters ronbutters at AOL.COM
Wed May 5 06:46:48 UTC 2010

Larry is surely right in his analysis of the extended meaning of "quisling." His discussion notes one of the most important features of generics: that there is not some other word that is the real generic (witness the Xerox peoples' insistence on 'photocopy' and the difficulty the Frisbee people have). QUISLING meets most of the tests. I hesitate only because it is my understanding that people who use the term at all have some sense that it refers to a historical figure. It is a rare, learned term (not even defined in NOAD1; a web search indicates that it is rarely defined in dictionaries except as a bioentry for the man himself, though perhaps this is changing and the dictionaries have not caught up as they should). One does not have to know very much about Christ or Buddha to understand that they are not true generics, even if used in synecdochical reference ("Christ-figure"). Compare also JUDAS and BENEDICT ARNOLD. It is primarily because of the historical force that QUISLING is as powerful as it is--I suspect that many people who hear it used would think of it as meaning imply 'traitor' and not 'inside-job traitor'. .

So I'd still want to say that, for most people, QUISLING is probably a pseudogeneric, though Larry would be right to think that, on the continuum from genericness to nongenericness, the word may be somewhat closer to one end than to another.

On May 4, 2010, at 8:58:47 PM, "Laurence Horn" <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU> wrote:

From:   "Laurence Horn" <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
Subject:    Re: [ADS-L] Fw: [ADS-L] yoda as a generic
Date:   May 4, 2010 8:58:47 PM EDT
At 9:17 PM +0000 5/4/10, ronbutters at aol.com wrote:
>The legal sense of "generic" says that the true
>origin must be forgotten for a term to be a true
>generic. That is why Kleenex and Xerox are not
>true generics; I would call them pseudogenerics,
>and at best Yoda fits into that category, and
>then only in the limited use that any famous
>name is used. Indeed, the examples that have
>veen proposed would be rather pointless if
>people did NOT make a strong commextion with the
>movie character. Even "quisling" is I expect
>known by the relatively few people who would
>ever use it as related to a historical figure.
>Why not just say "traitor"...

Not all traitors are quislings.  For me, at
least, a quisling is necessarily a collaborator
who is positioned within one's own government or
military service who helps an outside force gain
or hold power against the true interests (as
defined by the user of the pejorative term) of
one's own country.  Thus Tokyo Rose was not a
quisling, although she was a traitor, but Pétain
was arguably a quisling.  Knowing who Vidkun
Quisling was is not a precondition for using the
term with this meaning, and I'm not sure there's
an obvious non-eponymous substitute;
"collaborator" comes closer than "traitor", but
extends to restaurant owners and linguistics
professors who don't qualify (for me, at least)
as quislings.


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

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