Date: Tue, 28 Oct 1997 17:20:11 -0500

From: "Jeutonne P. Brewer" jpbrewer[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]HAMLET.UNCG.EDU

Subject: No subject given

From stygall[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] Tue Oct 28 17:02:05 1997

Subject: Re: PC Dictionaries?


You miss my point. There is nothing -- other than some very human

decisions made by people like you -- that demands that a

dictionary define by what you call what it "means." I don't think I or

many other people would have any trouble figuring out what it "means" by

starting with epithet. The Harper Collins CoBuild, for example, begins

the definition of "nigger" with "a word . . ." Semantics remains the


slippery of the linguistic levels and yet you make it sound as if what it

"means" is utterly transparent.


I suppose I have missed something, but I don't understand why you

propose "defining" by epithet rather than by "meaning." (I can't refer

back to your first message because I seem to have deleted.) What about

words/phrases that can't be handled adequately by epithet? Should the

dictionary use epithets for socially sensitive words but use word

"meanings" for other words.

I have an old dictionary at hand (1950s). Epithet is defined as

follows: "an adjective, noun, or phrase expressing some quality considered

characteristic of a person or thing: as, that _black-hearted_ villain"

I would rather have a definition, I think, rather than just the

epithet example used in the definition. I am still left with the

question of why/how an epithet would be preferable to a meaning.



Jeutonne P. Brewer, Associate Professor

Department of English

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Greensboro, NC 27412

email: jpbrewer[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]