Fw: [ADS-L] yoda as a generic

Charles Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Wed May 5 14:40:27 UTC 2010

Maybe I'm just weird, but I knew the common noun "quisling" pretty well and pretty long before I became aware of its origin.

"Generic" common nouns derived by synecdoche from proper personal names ("quisling," "solon") seem to be a different case from common nouns (and verbs) derived from trade names ("aspirin,", I believe; or "vaseline"--still a registered trade mark? But who really says "petroleum jelly"?!).


---- Original message ----
>Date: Wed, 5 May 2010 02:46:48 -0400
>From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> (on behalf of ronbutters <ronbutters at AOL.COM>)
>Larry is surely right in his analysis of the extended meaning of "quisling=
>." His discussion notes one of the most important features of generics: th=
>at there is not some other word that is the real generic (witness the Xero=
>x 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 defin=
>ed in NOAD1; a web search indicates that it is rarely defined in dictionar=
>ies except as a bioentry for the man himself, though perhaps this is chang=
>ing 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-figur=
>e").=A0Compare also JUDAS and BENEDICT ARNOLD.=A0It 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 'tra=
>itor' and not 'inside-job traitor'. .
>So I'd still want to say that, for most people, QUISLING is probably a pse=
>udogeneric, though Larry would be right to think that, on the continuum fr=
>om 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> wr=
>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 P=E9tain
>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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