Date: Tue, 9 Dec 1997 09:28:49 +0000 From: Jim Rader Subject: Re: Morris's Word and Phrase Origins My apologies--I got a little carried away. I meant to write--and thought I had written--"is of value mainly as a collection of etymology folklore," not "only as a collection of etymology folklore." It's not that I have that low an opinion of the book--I have recommended it on occasion to laypeople looking for entertaining stories of word origins. The problem is that laypeople take these entertaining but usually unsubstantiated or impossible-to-substantiate stories as gospel. After churning out the umpteenth letter of the year explaining why we cannot accept the "port-out/starboard-home" etymology of --repeated in MDWPO--I get hot under the collar and curse books of this ilk. As an example of the sort of stuff I find offensive in MDWPO, let me quote the article on : "Our candidates for this century's ugliest words are two: and . And do you know who coined them? Linguists, that's who--the very people who should be concerned with maintaining minimum linguistic standards. These two gems were coined to describe a technique by which some language researchers claim to be able to "date" the age of a word, just as Dr. Libby's carbon 14 method has successfully dated ancient artifacts." First--why these two words should be considered "ugly" is beyond me--they're no more sesquipedalian than thousands of other English words formed from Greco-Latin elements. Second-- the swipe at linguists is gratuitously anti-intellectual and gives laypeople a false idea of what linguists do. Third--the characterization of what lexicostatistics and glottochronology purport to do is wholly inaccurate. Sorry, but this entry is drivel and is going to raise the hackles of any linguist. I realize that some of the people on this list are not "professionals" (whatever that means in this field, and the subject of another current thread) and are going to look at this book differently than I do. But I consider that all the more reason to give a "professional" opinion when someone on the list cites a work that I think is demonstrably flawed. Tallying its major and minor inaccuracies would take up a lot of space. Maybe there is a newer edition of the book that has remedied some of its more egregious features (the copy at hand has a 1977 copyright). If so, I would be glad if someone would point that fact out to me. Jim Rader