Date: Wed, 19 Nov 1997 11:18:40 -0500

From: Gregory {Greg} Downing downingg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]IS2.NYU.EDU

Subject: Re: comedic

At 11:00 AM 11/19/97 +0000, you (bergdahl[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] wrote:

The term is now over for us and today I have a final in the sophomore

drama class. Repeatedly the term comedic turned up in papers where

comic would have sufficed. Is this a new piece of jargon on the model

of societal where social would do? There is a 1649 citation [I

believe in a shorter version of the OED] 'pertaining to or relating to

comedy' but in the the most recent MMLA a panel I was on was titled

"D.H. Lawrence, Satirist: Revealing Eros Through Comedic Technique." So

the term has some academic currency. I queried the coordinator of the

panel, a retired colleague, used the word for the humor. I haven't

searched for it on the net yet. Any intuitions? [distinterested parties


Fast guess, with no pretensions to being more than that -- When a word

starts to get used in everyday and popular senses, there's a tendency to

coin a more high-level way of expressing the putatively higher-level

sense(s) of that word, often through a related but morphologically more

complex word. Thus, "social" can mean having to do with courtesy or

friendliness (paying a social visit; someone is "a very social person"),

hence the emergence of "societal" for various kibnds of sociological (or

similar) uses. "Comic" is encountered in everyday and pop-cult usage in such

senses as a person who does stand-up (a "comic") or a kind of illustrated

story or joke in printed media ("comics"), or anything funny ("comic,"

adj.). Hence "comedic" as an alternative for would-be academic,

philosophical, etc. use... Not a sanctioning, just a stab at a possible


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