Re: The plot thickens - re: "fraudster"

Subject: Re: The plot thickens - re: "fraudster"
From: Ned Bedinger <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 10 Feb 2009 00:22:54 -0800

Geoff Lane wrote:
> That said,
> while some "-ster" words have found their way into the OED,
> "fraudster" has not.

Geoff, the OED would have no trouble getting sources and definitions for
trickster and hipster. Trickster was used in a respectable book dating
from the 1880s (see "American Hero Myths", a book about American Indian
mythology, by Daniel G. Brinton, M.D.), and the word can be found in
many popular and and scholarly texts. Hipster is well-documented as a
word minted in the mid-20th century, having interesting sociological
aspects that make it likewise a word used in many popular and scholarly

But with fraudster, I think there's yet another reason why it hasn't
appeared in the OED. Hear now the backgrounder.

Some dictionaries have had the reputation for being authoritative
language references. The Webster's New International (2nd edition) was
one such dictionary, published in the mid-1930s with a claimed 600,000
entries. Yet Webster's Third International was not nearly so widely
respected. Why not?? The single most devastating editorial policy
change, as far as the language conservatives and purists were concerned,
was that the Third approached the English lexicon descriptively--it
embraced the descriptivist theory that the real language is the one in
use, not the one prescribed. The classic example of the change was
inclusion of the word "ain't" in the dictionary.

I think the OED (see "The Professor and the Madman" by Simon
Winchester), like the Webster New International, originated on a
non-descriptivist path. I wouldn't be surprised if the OED has stuck
more to that mission while the W3 branched onto the newer path. I think
the OED's etymologies and documentation of first known instances where
the word appeared in print make it the most devoutly interesting English
dictionary, but OED cannot be both descriptively exhaustive while
maintaining their impeccable credentials. I'd love to be proved wrong,
but am not surprised when I can't find something like fraudster there.

And if that is not the reason why the OED does not list fraudster, then
I guess it must be because the OED editors might not yet have seen a
credible source for that word. Send them a postcard with a citation and
we'll see if it shows up in the next edition.

> I can't think of many non-nefarious occupations named with the "-ster"
> construction (but I'm standing by for a deluge! ;-)

I hope you get an eye-opening inboxful, and also that you outgrow the
Dark Ages Germanic sense that "-ster" is for occupations. Nowadays*,
-ster (and -ize, IMHO, but that's another thread) are prolific sources
of the most egregious throw-away word coinage. You barely need any
knowledge of what they're supposed to mean in order to coin a new word
that, while unneeded in any dialect of English, could wind up in a
dictionary. Not that English cares much if it gets one more, or even a
bazillion more new synonyms. Enough is a feast, Mother English always
seems to have enough, yet she seems determined to let them keep coming
until she can't find a anywhere to put any more.

Good luck.

Ned Bedinger
doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com

*Nowadays, as in "You are a fellow native US English speaker, aren't
you? Otherwise, sorry, wrong number."


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RE: I had say it because I was afraid no one else would.: From: Michael West
RE: I had say it because I was afraid no one else would.: From: McLauchlan, Kevin
The plot thickens - re: "fraudster": From: Geoff Lane
Re: The plot thickens - re: "fraudster": From: Ned Bedinger
Re: The plot thickens - re: "fraudster": From: Geoff Lane

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