to spew

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sun Apr 20 20:36:41 UTC 2014

> Why isn't this subsumed under 2.c., "Freq. in fig. use with reference to
abusive or
objectionable language."

First of all, by today's standards the definition is not really a
definition. It's a description.

A dictionary definition should be semantically and grammatically
substitutable for the word in question (though sometimes the outcome might
be a little awkward).  Further information, not strictly part of the
substitutable, element, can appear win parentheses.

So a better definition covering the OED  2c exx. might be, "to utter
(abusive or objectionable language)."

Observe that 2c requires a direct object specifying just what is uttered,
not a "that"-clause.

The 2009 ex., however, is rather different.  First of all, Mansel is hardly
using abusive or objectionable language; he's simply voicing a negative
opinion that Croutier disagrees with. "Wrote" would have worked, but unless
Inglish is further advanced than even I imagine, "spew" is not a simple
synonym for "say, write, or utter." It implies abuse and often vehemence.
Mansel's words, however, are neither abusive nor vehement. They are
forcefully but politely expressed. I suggest "abusively" as an adverb of
manner in the proposed def. because I just have to assume that other
writers who construe "spew" with "that" are referring to far more vehement
occasions. "Critically or unfairly" complete the spectrum: anything weaker
than "unfairly" would probably undermine the whole negative charge of "to

Contrast too the syntax required by, e.g., "say" and "utter":

1. OK:  "Mansel said that this sort of literature aims...."

2. "Mansel uttered that this sort of literature aims...."

While Croutier suggests that Mansel's criticism of the "sensation-novel"
was unfair or unreasonable, there is no basis for calling his language
"abusive or objectionable."

And in her mind, presumably, she didn't. Hence def. "2d."


On Sun, Apr 20, 2014 at 3:34 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at> wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject:      Re: to spew
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 4/20/2014 09:01 AM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> >"_trans._ To say or write abusively or unfairly."
> >
> >Not in OED.
> >
> >Looks like it should be "2d. "
> Why isn't this subsumed under 2.c., "Freq. in
> fig. use with reference to abusive or
> objectionable language."?    Spewing vs. orating
> may be in the ear of the auditor; presumably
> Croutier found Mansel's words about Wilkie
> Collins's writings objectionable.  There are some fun quotations under 2.c:
> 1632   W. Lithgow Totall Disc. Trav. x. 472   My
> sonne, beholde you deserue to be burnt quicke..:
> Spewing forth also this Fćminine Latine [etc.].
> 1718   T. Gordon Dedic. to Great Man 20   Why
> must prating for ever suffer'd, without
> Rebuke, to be spewing up their ill-scented
> Crudities in the Faces of Men that are either Wise or Brave?
> Is speaking "Fćminine Latine [etc.]" any more
> bilious than criticizing worthless sensationalist fiction?
> Joel
> >2009 A. L. Croutier, "Introduction" to Wilkie Collins _The Moonstone_
> >(N.Y.: Signet) x: The philosopher H. L. Mansel spewed that this sort of
> >literature aims at creating excitement alone to satisfy the cravings of a
> >diseased appetite: "No divine influence can be imagined as presiding over
> >the birth of Wilkie's work. No more immortality is dreamed of for it than
> >for the fashions of the current season. A commercial atmosphere floats
> >around works of this class, redolent of the manufactory."
> >
> >Really "spewing," wasn't he? (Wait, don't tell me. It sounds normal to
> >everyone but me.)
> >
> >The distinguished Alev Lytle Croutier (b. 1945) is a former Guggenheim
> >Fellow whose work has been translated into 22 languages.
> >
> >PS: The direct quotation from Mansel is slightly but embarrassingly
> >inaccurate - as suggested by the chummy reference to Wilkie Collins as
> >"Wilkie." In fact, Mansel (Quarterly Review, Apr. 1863, p. 483), writing
> >anonymously, is describing the "sensation-novel" as a genre rather than
> >singling out Collins for criticism.
> >
> >JL
> >
> >--
> >"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the
> truth."
> >
> >------------------------------------------------------------
> >The American Dialect Society -
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

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