[Ads-l] consensus and concensus and 100%?

Salikoko S. Mufwene s-mufwene at UCHICAGO.EDU
Mon Dec 19 10:33:31 UTC 2016

Merriam-Webster online gives the following primary definitions:

"1. a :  general agreement :  unanimity <the consensus of their opinion, 
based on reports … from the border — John Hersey>
       b :  the judgment arrived at by most of those concerned <the 
consensus was to go ahead>"

May there be variation? "general agreement" is not "complete agreement." 
Neither is "complete agreement" suggested by "most of those concerned," 
although "unanimity" seems to support your observation. Is this one of 
those cases when a negligible minority of disagreements may be 
overlooked, for all intents and purposes? I wonder whether even the 
etymological interpretation of the term requires a 100% agreement. The 
French dictionary /Le Robert/ is more consistent with the NY Times 
writer, providing definitions with 'several' and 'the majority'.


On 12/19/2016 3:39 AM, Stephen Goranson wrote:
> A NY Times article on a disputed claim that a manuscript is by Beethoven ends with:
> "The buyer should understand that there are very few pieces of art or music that do not have any negative views about their genesis," Mr. Spencer said. "He is, in essence, buying a consensus of expert opinion. And by definition, a consensus is not 100 percent."
> But a consensus by definition is complete agreement.
> I wonder whether Spencer was thinking of concensus, a common misspelling.
> http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/18/arts/music/as-prices-for-classical-scores-soar-one-beethoven-is-in-question.html?module=WatchingPortal&region=c-column-middle-span-region&pgType=Homepage&action=click&mediaId=thumb_square&state=standard&contentPlacement=4&version=internal&contentCollection=www.nytimes.com&contentId=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nytimes.com%2F2016%2F12%2F18%2Farts%2Fmusic%2Fas-prices-for-classical-scores-soar-one-beethoven-is-in-question.html&eventName=Watching-article-click
> Stephen Goranson
> http://people.duke.edu/~goranson/
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

Salikoko S. Mufwene                    s-mufwene at uchicago.edu
The Frank J. McLoraine Distinguished Service Professor of Linguistics and the College
Professor, Committee on Evolutionary Biology
Professor, Committee on the Conceptual & Historical Studies of Science
University of Chicago                  773-702-8531; FAX 773-834-0924
Department of Linguistics
1115 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637, USA

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

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