Date: Thu, 16 Oct 1997 09:22:15 -0400 From: "Dennis R. Preston" Subject: Re: Etymology of _Hoosier_ Greg, What is it that makes what people believe not a fact? What makes what people believe about language a set of facts not interesting to linguists? Finally, if you want to stamp some out (and I agree that there are some viscious folk beliefs about language, or, to be more precise, about language users), wouldn't you want to know the details, sources, strength, provenience, and so on of those beliefs before you went a-stompin'? There is also some caution to be taken in lessons learned from medicine and other areas (which we all pray are dominated by hard science) where folk facts have tuned out to be right on. Dennis >At 06:55 AM 10/16/97 -0400, you wrote: >>Why is folk etymology so much more rewarding than the truth? >> >>Dennis R. Preston >>Department of Linguistics and Languages >>Michigan State University >>preston[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] >> > >Maybe Horne Tooke is a vampire, is undead, and has been out biting others. >Bram Stoker, call your office. Or maybe the answer is that "man is an >etymologizing animal" (Abram Smythe Palmer, _Folk-Etymology_, 1882). A lot >of folk etymologies become quite influential. Perhaps f-e is okay as long as >people don't think it's anything but an ex post facto construct -- but they >often think f-e is the real reason for the word's origin I think. Poll >people, and I bet you'll find 100 who know "who's here?" led to "hoosier" >for every 1 who knows the published reseached history as posted on this list >last week. > >Skeat waxed vehement about the need to stamp out f-e over a century ago. For >example: > >"If the question were one of chemistry, botany, or any form of science, the >appeal would lie to the facts; and we should be amazed if any one who >asserted that the chief constituents of water are oxygen and nitrogen were >to take offence at contradiction. The whole matter lies in a nutshell; if >etymology is to be scientific, the appeal lies to the facts; and the facts, >in this case, are accurate quotations, with exact references, from all >available authors." (_A Student's Pastime_, 1895, p. lxxv) > >Greg Downing/NYU, at greg.downing[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] or downingg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] Dennis R. Preston Department of Linguistics and Languages Michigan State University East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA preston[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] Office: (517)353-0740 Fax: (517)432-2736