LINGUIST List 13.2914

Mon Nov 11 2002

Sum: "Balding" as Adjective

Editor for this issue: Dina Kapetangianni <>


  1. Scott J. Baxter, Sum of query prescriptive objections to "balding".

Message 1: Sum of query prescriptive objections to "balding".

Date: Sun, 10 Nov 2002 11:06:44 -0500
From: Scott J. Baxter <>
Subject: Sum of query prescriptive objections to "balding".

On October 28 I posted a query asking if anyone was aware of
any prescriptive objections to the use of "balding" as an
adjective as in _a spare, already balding man in his
mid-thirties_. I received a number of useful replies the
main points of which are:

1) The word balding as an adjective, according to the OED,
was first attested in 1938 and several responders think it
appeared in American English later than that.

2) No current dictionary of English suggests that its use
(in prescriptive terms) is wrong, but older editions like
the 1980 American Heritage and Webster's Dictionary of
English Usage (1989)do. There is also a brief entry on this
word in the New Fowler's Modern English Usage (3rd; 1996).

3)Ergo, this was an example of language change in progress
some twenty years ago and now the adjective balding seems to
have become well assimilated into English which explains why
the prescriptivists no longer complain about it.

The following people gave me some very useful replies:

Clyde Hankey, Steve R. (No surname listed in message), Heidi
Angstrom, Astika Kapagoda, Liess Vantine, Jeremy Whistle,
James VandenBosch, Gil Phillip, Laura Callahan, Anthea
Gupta, Nick Caffrey, Remy Viredaz, Micahawl Swan.

 Scott J. Baxter
 Purdue University
 Department of English
 500 Oval Drive
 West Lafayette IN 47907-2038
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