"notorious" goes neutral

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sun Aug 7 13:29:51 UTC 2011

On Sat, Aug 6, 2011 at 6:46 PM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com>wrote:

 > Today we went to a local production of _The Fantasticks_. The Chairman of
 > the Board of the theater group (in her late '30s, I'd guess) introduced
 > the performance by saying that it was based on a little-known play by the
 > "famous and notorious Edmond Rostand."
 > Rostand's "most notorious play was _Cyrano de Bergerac_."
 > No, there was not a hint of irony or playfulness in either her intonation
 > or
 > her body lingo.
 >  ...
 > "Notorious" thus = 'noted; celebrated.'

But it does, and did --

  I. With neutral or favourable connotations.
  1.b. Of a person, place, etc.: well or widely known; famous; (in
later use) esp. noted for a particular quality or
feature.  [Quotations from 1555 to 1992.]

I agree, however, that in 'Rostand's "most notorious play was _Cyrano
de Bergerac_."', everyone today is likely to take it as --

II. With depreciative or unfavourable connotations.
5. Well known on account of something which is not generally approved
of or admired; unfavourably known; noted for some bad practice, quality, etc.
b. Of a person, place, etc.


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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list