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Reply #29: Like taking two opposite words and applying them to the same meaning. [View All]

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Speck Tater Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-15-10 03:18 PM
Response to Reply #19
29. Like taking two opposite words and applying them to the same meaning.
The house burned UP.
The house burned DOWN.

English is just chock full of examples like that, and "atheist" is only one of the many. No language is utterly consistent or utterly logical. In Old English a double negative was emphatic, and completely proper (just as it is in modern Russian). Today, suing a double negative is "abuse" or "misuse". Not because it "must" be that way for some logical reason, but just because that's how most people use it.

You are using the standard "What the word is supposed to mean." which is prescriptivist.
I am using the standard "What people use the word to mean." which is descriptivist.

19th century grammarians and lexicographers were prescriptivist.
20th and 21st century grammarians and lexicographers are descriptivist.

Our disagreement can never be resolved because you are arguing from a prescriptivist world view and I from a descriptivist world view. Those world views are not compatible. As a descriptivist your prescriptivism appears old-fashioned and overly conservative to me. This is because modern linguistics is all descriptive. Prescriptivism has long since been discredited. In fact all modern dictionaries are based on HOW THE WORD IS USED. I know you wish it weren't that way, but it is. You need to face reality. The words mean what general usage says they mean, not what you, personally, want them to mean. You cannot simply make the pronouncement that people who don't follow your standard are "abusing" or "misusing" the language. You are not the one who gets to set those standards. Language doesn't work that way. Yes, having one word cover two diametrically opposed meanings is illogical, but it is correct English, because English allows illogical usage. That's just how it is. And that is why there are two different kinds of "atheist", one for each valid definition of the word.

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