Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Not quite famous

After Mark Liberman responded on Language Log to my response to his post, my friend Eric emailed me to say, "Dude, now you're famous!" Now Eric is from California, so he is given to hyperbole. My 15 minutes was much shorter than he predicted.*

But this isn't the first time I've been cited on the Web. A couple days ago I ego surfed on google. In addition to a few academic mentions (some nice people thank me in the acknowledgements of their papers) I found two cases where I'm cited as a kind of "expert".

The first is in an article by Emily Shetler on prescriptive versus descriptive approaches to dictionary writing. My citation is pretty far down in the article so you'll have to read through it to get to it.


On the American Dialect Society (ADS) listserv, more than 200 people come together to debate these and other linguistic issues. Every year at the annual meeting, members of ADS, not just those on the listserv, vote on Word of the Year (WOTY). After the January 2004 meeting, Ed Keer took a small but telling poke at the prescriptivists:

I recently learned of a word that got me thinking of a new WOTY category: Most likely to annoy prescriptivists. Here's the word: Back Facial: A facial treatment for your back. Of course it really doesn't qualify for WOTY since it hasn't gained much prominence. I look forward to the howls from the mavens once it becomes popular!

That's ok, it's not a bad article.

My second quote shows up on the Eggcorn database. The database is a collection of eggcorns--not quite folk etymologies, not quite simple misspellings. I show up in the entry for pre fixe.

Rationalizing the modifier as a participle (or, possibly, restoring the deleted past participle suffix) then gives us prefixed. Ed Keer reported wryly to ADS-L on 17 December 2004: "On my lunch walk today I passed a restaurant advertising prefixed menu. I don't know what they have against bare roots."

What's funny about these citations is that they both come from the same source, The American Dialect Society List (ADS-L). Now I admit that I occasionally contribute to this list. But I am in no way one of the big guns there. And I am NOT an etymologists. The majority of my posts are either questions ("Anybody ever heard of this?"), data points ("I'm from PA and I say..."), or silly comments like that last one.

But these InterWebs are a strange place. Seems like someone occasionally listens. And I'll take the little shot of fame.

*Eric is famous in his own right. He's a regular contributor to Language Log as well as founder of Phonoloblog and an accomplished linguist.

1 comment:

Eric Bakovic said...

Thanks for the props, but I'd rather be famous for my band ...

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