LINGUIST List 8.1123

Fri Aug 1 1997

Sum: Question on a Word

Editor for this issue: Martin Jacobsen <>


  1. Jonathan Gilbert, question on a word -Reply

Message 1: question on a word -Reply

Date: Thu, 31 Jul 1997 12:16:30 -0500
From: Jonathan Gilbert <>
Subject: question on a word -Reply

Many thanks for the replies! In particular, I'll pass on the
reference suggestions. I should probably be slightly more specific
about what we're looking for: a word (again, my friend writing the
dissertation believes one exists) that would fit in the sentence:
"Word X has/is [XXXX] with the normal usage of word Y." or else:
"These people have [XXXX] the meanings of word X and word Y."

That is, we're not looking for examples of X and Y, or for a
description of the general phenomenon of X changing meaning or having
a special (argot or jargon) meaning, but we want to know if there is a
term [XXXX] which would accurately indicate that X and Y are being
used synonymously when they are not normally synonyms ...

The specific X and Y in question here are "marriage" and "home" (yes,
I do realize that "marriage" and "home" overlap a lot in their usage
anyway; I'm not familiar enough with my friend's topic to know exactly
what she's arguing, but I believe it involves a particular couple's
development of an individual and idiosyncratic concept of marriage,
which at times becomes, um, blended? with their concept of home to the
extent that they will use either word to refer to it ... something
like that. Regardless, you can tell from my attempt to state the
question why a word is needed ... :-)

Replies by email please (I'm not a regular reader of these lists).
And thanks again.

Jonathan Gilbert

>>> Peter T. Daniels <> 07/29/97 06:45pm >>>
An example would help, but it sounds like you're talking about jargon,
slang, or argot (idiosyncratic language varieties defined according to
the user group; see textbooks of sociolinguistics).

>>> Deborah D K Ruuskanen <> 07/30/97 12:00am
>>> Words used in separate contexts changing meaning? I should imagine
there are quite a lot, particular if you think of American/British
differences. [..snip]

>>> Carsten Breul <> 07/30/97 05:06am >>>
In David Crystal's _The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language_
(Cambridge: CUP, 1987), there are descriptions of situations
resp. phenomena which might be close to what you're friend is looking
for. [examples snipped]

>>>>>>>[The original question:]>>>>>
The question is on behalf of another friend who is working on a
dissertation (not on a linguistics topic, it's social history of a sort); she
wants to describe a situation in which the usage of one word (in a
particular context, by a small group of people) has diverged enough from
its standard usage that it has become interchangeable with another
word, normally either different or unrelated in meaning. My friend
believes there is a word for this phenomenon, but nobody we've asked
so far has been able to identify it ... does anyone out there know?

Jonathan Gilbert
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