LINGUIST List 2.541

Sat 21 Sep 1991

Disc: Chomskyite

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. , Re: 2.530 Responses
  2. Laurie Bauer, Chomskyan/-ite

Message 1: Re: 2.530 Responses

Date: Wed, 18 Sep 91 13:54 EST
From: <>
Subject: Re: 2.530 Responses
Victor Raskin's explanation of the difference between X+ite and X+ist
seems reasonable but it doesn't quite work. First example that comes
to mind is ironically Stakhanovite. Stakhanov was a Russian coal miner
who one day in the mid-1930's took it into his head to exceed the daily
quota. This brought him fame, medals, much emulation for a while; but
the emulators were definitely not camp-followers.
Which leads me to a proposed refinement of the Raskin theory. X+ite
becomes derogatory only in a context of incipient or actual group
tensions. In fact, given the latter, there's no difference between
X+ite and X+ist. Nothing made U.S. Communists madder than to be
called Stalinists.
But even this doesn't explain everything. I'm not ready to rule out
the possible impact on educated American ears of a whole generation
of talented writers and thinkers who served hitches in Trotskyist
trenches. And they took suffixes seriously: I can recall at least
two indignant editorials in the New International and a letter to the
NYT. They saw the _ite as derogatory. The tin-earred Stalinists
didn't give a damn.
A final note: what were the followers of the late Jay Lovestone called?
You guessed it: _everybody_ called them Lovestoneites.
Norman Miller
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Message 2: Chomskyan/-ite

Date: Mon, 16 Sep 1991 12:09:47 EDT
From: Laurie Bauer <>
Subject: Chomskyan/-ite
I agree that to me -ite has more pejorative connotations than -an (or -ist or
-er, to broaden the field slightly) (so perhaps we can avoid the British vs.
American debate in this case :-)), but if you look in e.g. 'The Barnhart
Dictionary of New English' or Websters '9000 Words', and in particular consider
the citations, it is hard to tell whether such a feeling is general or whether
you are imposing it yourself. Barnhart, for example, lists Birchite, Naxalite,
Powellite, McLuhanite, Friedmanite, Devlinite, Castroite, Leavisite,
Zinovievite, Zhdanovite, Paisleyite, and while the citations in many of these
entries are compatible with the pejorative reading, the citation for Devlinite
('We must, in the next year, get together, all of us, Paisleyites, Devlinites,
civil rights groups, students, Orangemen, I.R.A. men, the lot...') is not what
you would expect to find if they were being condemned. Perhaps some of these
terms become lexicalised despite their negative overtones? The OED lists no
alternative for Paisleyite. The OED says of modern personal -ite formations
that 'these have a tendency to be depreciatory,being mostly given by opponents,
and seldom acknowledged by those to whom they are applied'. (See at -ite), but
Marchand (1969: 311) demurs (although -- oh no! -- he says it is less
dpreciatory in American English). Perhaps we should just agree with the OED,
and disagree about how strong the tendency is.
Laurie Bauer
Wellington, New Zealand
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