[Ads-l] notorious = 'well regarded or recognized'

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Mon Aug 15 15:28:14 UTC 2016

On Mon, Aug 15, 2016 at 10:26 AM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu>

> OK, Here's the OED, sense 1b (1a concerns notorious, i.e. well-known,
> facts, also not specifically reprehensible ones):
>  1b. Of a person, place, etc.: well or widely known; famous; (in later
> use) esp. noted for a particular quality or feature. Cf. sense A. 5b.
> 1555   R. Eden Other notable Thynges touchynge Indies in tr. Peter Martyr
> of Angleria Decades of Newe Worlde f. 319,   A famous and notorious place
> amonge the Indians.
> 1588   ‘M. Marprelate’ Epistle (1843) 40   Manie of you..are men verie
> notorious for their learning and preaching.
> 1610   P. Holland tr. W. Camden Brit. To Rdr. sig. 5,   I purposed to
> mention any but such [towns and castles] as were most notorious.
> 1614   S. Purchas Pilgrimage (ed. 2) 44   Of Cham is the name Chemmis in
> Ægypt; and Ammon the Idoll and Oracle so notorious.
> 1778   S. Foote Cozeners i. i. 26   Mrs. Fl. Then the Doctor sings, I
> Presume. Mrs. Sim. Not a better pipe at the playhouse; He has long been
> notorious for that.
> 1865   G. Grote Plato I. 136   Where was the person to be found, notorious
> and accessible, who could say [etc.].
> 1927   R. Hoffmann Birds Pacific States in Webster's Dict. Eng. Usage
> (1989) 669/2   The flight of the Loon is very swift and direct; it is
> notorious for its ability to dive instantly.
> 1955   S. H. Adams Grandfather Stories 119   He is..notorious through all
> the docks of Erie, from Albany to Buffalo, for his probity and his
> sportsmanship.
> 1992   Daily Mirror (BNC)    I trained as often and as hard as I could, as
> hard as anybody on the staff—and that includes my old pal Bryan Robson, who
> was notorious for his unflagging effort.
> At 4 we get into the pejorative senses (for "depreciative or unfavourable
> connotations", "noted or well known for its egregiousness; flagrant.",
> etc.).  But as the entry notes, "In some cases it is not possible to
> ascertain the writer's intent."
> So perhaps our flabbergasted/horrified reaction to the positive/neutral
> uses of "notorious" exhibits a bit of the recency effect.

And perhaps we also suffer from memory loss, as we mulled over this
"notorious" business five years ago:


As JL noted at the time, the OED's cites since 1865 are all of the form
"notorious for," which doesn't quite encompass current usage (though it
does match the CNN example JL provided this time around).


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