Date: Tue, 23 Jul 1996 12:19:04 -0400

From: Ron Butters RonButters[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM

Subject: WAFT and the Principle of Linguistic Entropy

My AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY tells me that one can pronounce WAFT to rime

either with FATHER (first choice) or PAT (second choice). I appreciate all

the psycholinguistic speculation going on here, and I would not care to imply

that there may not be some geosocial distribution behind the variablity of

the A in WAFT. But I also would like to suggest that real people (as opposed

to linguists) do indeed look up words in dictionaries and are influenced by

what they read there--when they can remember what they read. (Also,

dictionary makers look up pronunciations in people and write down what they

find.) You say TOE-MAY-TOE and I say TOE-MAH-TOE, you say POE-TAY-TOE and I


In other words, when a lexical item is as rare as WAFT, most people haven't

made up their minds and really don't care very much one way of the

other--especially when their dictionary tells them that they can go either

way. ( I can't even decide whether I want to use SWUM as the past participle

of SWIM, and I swim about five miles a week.) This is what Hjelmslev called

the "Principle of Linguistic Entropy."