LINGUIST List 2.418

Sat 17 Aug 1991

Qs: Pluperfect, PC Dictionary

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  1. Michael White, Query re the pluperfect
  2. Dennis Baron, pc dictionary

Message 1: Query re the pluperfect

Date: Fri, 16 Aug 91 13:59:14 EDT
From: Michael White <mwhite%saul.cis.upenn.eduRICEVM1.RICE.EDU>
Subject: Query re the pluperfect
I am told that it is ancient knowledge that the pluperfect in English covers
two distinct senses, describable as the past of the past and the past of the
perfect. Does anyone know where this ancient knowledge came from?
Thanks,
Michael White
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Message 2: pc dictionary

Date: Fri, 16 Aug 91 15:16:52 CDT
From: Dennis Baron <baron%ux1.cso.uiuc.eduRICEVM1.RICE.EDU>
Subject: pc dictionary
I have just joined the LINGUIST discussion group after seeing a
reference to it in our Linguistics Dept newsletter (U of Illinois,
Urbana). Since I do not know yet what recent topics have been
raised, let me by way of introduction raise an issue/ask a question
concerning the new _Random House Webster's College Dictionary_,
published last Spring, which is being touted by the publishers (and
vigorously condemned in the popular press) as "the politically
correct dictionary." This because it provides in a brief appendix
a guide to nonsexist writing, and because many (though not all) of
the sex-specific entries have usage notes advising the use of
neutral terminology. The _RHWCD_ notes the spelling _womyn_,
for example, has an entry for _waitron_ as an alternative to
the gendered waiter/waitress pair, and so forth.
One notable absence from this, or any dictionary, is the recording
of the use of _Ms._ not as a marriage-neutral feminine honorific
but as a synonym for _Miss_, a usage current among unmarried under-
grad women here in the Midwest and, I gather, elsewhere as well.
Ms., by the way, was coined as early as 1932 and seems to have
served then as an abbreviation for _Miss_, which was advocated by
some feminists in the early 20c as the universal female title to
correspond to Mr. The initial pronunciation of _Ms._ was apparently
with a voiceless /s/ rather than the current /z/, which reinforces
this etymology.
When I poll female undergrads here they often say they go by _Ms._
(if they are unmarried) and intend to switch to _Mrs._ if/when
they marry. To what extent is this phenomenon repeated elsewhere?
Has anyone else seen or thought about the pc phenomenon with regard
to this new dictionary?
Has anyone else noticed, as I have, that _no_ dictionary, including
the _OED_, defines _Webster's_ as meaning `any (English) dictionary'?
Even the _RHWCD_, which editor Sol Steinmetz explains has added _Web-
ster's to the title because the term is synonymous with quality
dictionary, does not define _Webster's_ this way in the body of the
dictionary.
--
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