Date: Tue, 21 Apr 1998 10:32:08 -0400
From: Gregory {Greg} Downing
Subject: Re: (In)flammable

At 12:49 AM 4/21/98 -0600, you wrote:
>>There are two _in-_ prefixes, one being a negator and the other referring
>>to 'enabling'. So 'inflammable' refers to an object consisting of a
>>substance that may be 'inflamed' when subjected to a heat source above a
>>certain temperature -- though this is not the most common use of
>>'inflame'. Discussions of the inappropriateness of the term 'inflammable'
>>are typical of dicta offered by prescriptivists who don't want to bother
>>doing homework because they already know everything that anyone could
>>possibly learn about language by consulting dictionaries etc.

Isn't the elimination of the "in-" from "inflammable" actually an example of
linguistic *innovators* (not "tradition"-maintaining prescriptivists) simply
giving in to the descriptivistically observed problem of confusion between
two phonetically identical prefixes of often opposite meanings?

But since you raise prescriptivism, a larger point to think about is that
linguistically prescriptivist activities (i.e., decisions about what is
"better" and what is "worse" usage -- decisions which are in fact
unavoidable in the production of any utterance) are part of what human
beings in fact do, with a good deal of frequency. So a fully and
consistently descriptivist attitude toward language would need to include
and account for prescriptivist activity as one component of its full
description of language.

Gregory {Greg} Downing, at greg.downing[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] or downingg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]