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

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Mon Dec 19 10:52:35 UTC 2016

Definitions may vary--e.g., OED, consensus, n. 2a. "Agreement in opinion; the collective unanimous opinion of a number of persons"-- but to say that "by definition, a consensus is not one hundred percent" is false, because a consensus is often 100%.


From: American Dialect Society <...> on behalf of Salikoko S. Mufwene <...>
Sent: Monday, December 19, 2016 5:33 AM
Subject: Re: [ADS-L] consensus and concensus and 100%?

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.
> https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__www.nytimes.com_2016_12_18_arts_music_as-2Dprices-2Dfor-2Dclassical-2Dscores-2Dsoar-2Done-2Dbeethoven-2Dis-2Din-2Dquestion.html-3Fmodule-3DWatchingPortal-26region-3Dc-2Dcolumn-2Dmiddle-2Dspan-2Dregion-26pgType-3DHomepage-26action-3Dclick-26mediaId-3Dthumb-5Fsquare-26state-3Dstandard-26contentPlacement-3D4-26version-3Dinternal-26contentCollection-3Dwww.nytimes.com-26contentId-3Dhttp-253A-252F-252Fwww.nytimes.com-252F2016-252F12-252F18-252Farts-252Fmusic-252Fas-2Dprices-2Dfor-2Dclassical-2Dscores-2Dsoar-2Done-2Dbeethoven-2Dis-2Din-2Dquestion.html-26eventName-3DWatching-2Darticle-2Dclick&d=CwID-g&c=imBPVzF25OnBgGmVOlcsiEgHoG1i6YHLR0Sj_gZ4adc&r=uUVa-8oDL2EzfbuMuowoUadHHcJ7pjul6iFkS5Pd--8&m=Ia_iaSOAY40vQopyt2uaRYfXERtVxKjJ4nNzUDRihdQ&s=1QRQuy1KOW1lQwgkwxfW9QckcwM-XJSAjFthQ5Q84LA&e=
> Stephen Goranson
> http://people.duke.edu/~goranson/

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list