The plot thickens - re: "fraudster"

Subject: The plot thickens - re: "fraudster"
From: Geoff Lane <geoff -at- gjctech -dot- co -dot- uk>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 6 Feb 2009 15:42:07 +0000

On Friday, February 6, 2009, McLauchlan, Kevin wrote;

>> And the answer is No. "Fraudster" is common usage in
>> mainstream news media,
>> and is recognized in mainstream dictionaries.
>> It doesn't mean what "fraud" means, and therefore has a
>> useful function in
>> the language, describing a particular type of swindler.
>> I know people who are frauds. As far as I know, none of them
>> are swindlers.

> I agree. To me, the word does have value, for exactly those reasons.
> I'm in the language-maven camp that says any change to the language that
> adds value is a good change, but any change that subtracts value (like
> perpetuating mistakes of one word for another until the very concept of
> one is no longer expressable) is bad.

Further to my previous post, I had a cursory look to see what Merriam
Webster on line has to say on the subject. Unbelievably (considering
that "fraudster" has no definition in the OED), Webster has:

chiefly British : a person who engages in fraud : cheat

Thus I suspect we have Americans thinking that "fraudster" is a
Britishism, Britons thinking it's an Americanism, and neither feeling
completely comfortable with that term in formal documents.

Perhaps more telling, and contrary to what some US writers on this
list have claimed, Webster also has:

1 a: deceit , trickery ; specifically : intentional perversion of
truth in order to induce another to part with something of value or to
surrender a legal right
b: an act of deceiving or misrepresenting : trick

2 a: a person who is not what he or she pretends to be : impostor ;
also : one who defrauds : cheat
b: one that is not what it seems or is represented to be

So Webster says that "a fraud" can mean one who defrauds, which is the
same as in English (as opposed to American). If Webster is to be
believed, "fraudster" is a Britishism and thus "fraud" is the
preferred term to describe someone who defrauds. To me, this shows how
common language can stray from the official version and stresses that
language is dynamic.

I don't know where this leaves us, except that I've added "fraud" and
its derivatives to my catalogue of words likely to cause contention to
an international audience.



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