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May 15, 2008


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I had no idea erstwhile was being abused this way. *shakes head sadly*

(I just tried to post a comment, but it got flagged as spam -- I'm guessing that's because it was long and had four URLs in it. Sorry about that....)

I've always thought of "erstwhile"as negative regarding friends or aquaintences; meaning that the relationship no longer exists personally or professionally.
About the spam flags: the servers, especially in California,are starting to flag much more easily now. I live in Japan and have a Japanese cell phone and PC. I can still send e-mails to Michigan , Texas and Canada with either, but the same e-mails were being flagged and sent back from California even the e-mails without attachments in some cases.Apparently some of my e-mails to California just disappeared according to a friends report. It's probably because of the Japanese operating system. However, I switched to Yahoo Mail from Outlook Express and that has solved the problem so far.Good luck! cheers, Nick

Off the main topic, but you did open the door (as they say in court) --

Re "pure, wholly unaccented California English": When I was in college (again, in the late 1960's), studying linguistics, one teacher played recordings of people reading the same phrase in English, but with various regional American dialects. She said that the Utah accent was actually the least accented (!), but since TV news broadcasting had originated in California, the California accent was becoming the standard for American English. As it now has.

Erstwhile means former (adjective) or formerly (adverb); it's a blend of erst, an Old English word meaning "once" or "long ago" that's familiar to crossword solvers; and while, meaning "during" or "at that time." But that's not how many people use it.

Etymological fallacy?

You cannot make a word mean whatever you want it to mean - that is, if you wish to be understood. Usage does not determine correctness. If a person starts swapping labels ("cats" for "dogs" and vice versa), all that will happen in the short term is confusion. The reductio ad absurdum is chaotic unintelligibility.

I think this is a straw man argument. Is something like this ever likely to happen, outside of a few isolated cases? Has it ever happened?

Usage does determine correctness, but in a more sensible way than Waynrib suggests. If most speakers in a community use a word in a certain way, then that is the meaning of the word. (I am not suggesting that this is the case with "erstwhile".)

It's always the other person that has the accent. Seriously though,I find the terms "California accent" , "Canadian accent"or even "British accent" for example to be so vague as to be practically useless. I work with English speakers from all over the globe everyday and it's my opinion that high schools and universities attended have the strongest influence on pronunciation and that enunciating clearly far outweighs any local accent for ease of communication in spoken English. How would you describe a "California accent" as opposed to a "Utah accent" ? Both would be very difficult to understand if the speaker mumbled.

OK, but wait. How did Ruth Wajnryb get to be Ms. Waynrib?

Mr. Wuxtry: Well, SHE spells it Wajnryb, and that's good enough for me.

Speaking of names, Mr. W., yours is swell. Wuxtry, wuxtry, read all about it!

I think Mr.Wuxtry is refering to the spelling (or typo?). Before the first green part it's "Ruth Wajnryb" and just after it becomes "Ruth Waynrib's". Hope this was helpful.

Aha! Fixed now. (I really need a proofreader...)

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