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Despise
Posted: 17 October 2010 09:13 AM   [ Ignore ]
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A Californian e-friend of mine is in dispute with the head of the college where she works. She has several times said that this person “despises” her, and the context leads me to think that she means not that this person views her with contempt but that he detests her. Is that a normal sense of despise in Leftpondia? It isn’t over here. Or is it an idiosyncrasy (or plain malapropism) of my friend’s?

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Posted: 17 October 2010 11:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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No, it’s not the normal usage. Over here despise implies contempt as well. (But it’s not a malapropism either.)

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Posted: 17 October 2010 12:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I grew up in Virginia and the notion of despise as “detest” was very common, in fact I would say it was probably the most common sense (although of course when somebody says “I despise you” it is rather difficult to separate out the element of “detestation” from that of “contempt").  This can’t in fact be a very rare (or regionally limited) definition, since it is found in the American Heritage Dictionary:

1. To regard with contempt or scorn: despised all cowards and flatterers.
2. To dislike intensely; loathe: despised the frigid weather in January.
3. To regard as unworthy of one’s interest or concern: despised any thought of their own safety.

One can find frequent uses of this definition on the Internet and in books, e.g, by doing a Google search on “despised going to” (with continuations being “church”, “work”, “class”, etc.)

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Posted: 17 October 2010 02:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Yeah, I take back what I said. I’ve used despise this way myself; I just didn’t realize it.

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Posted: 17 October 2010 02:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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That does seem to be a clear Leftpondia/Rightpondia divergence, then, since the OED gives only “regard with contempt” and allied meanings.

I hesitate to challenge Dave, but if my friend had used “despise” in mistake for “detest”, would that not be a malapropism within the meaning of the Act?

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Posted: 17 October 2010 02:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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That does seem to be a clear Leftpondia/Rightpondia divergence, then, since the OED gives only “regard with contempt” and allied meanings.

You can’t use the OED for this, since the relevant section came out in 1895 and hasn’t yet been revised for the third edition.  You’ll need to check with a modern UK dictionary.  But your friend is American, using a sense enshrined in an American dictionary, so there is nothing at all wrong with your friend’s usage; it is neither a mistake nor a malapropism.

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Posted: 17 October 2010 11:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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The use of “despise” in the sense of “detest” is new to me (I’ve led a sheltered life).  Does this shift in meaning extend to “despicable”? Would a person who uses “despise” in this way speak of “the despicable weather in January”, for instance, or of “the despicable presence of rats in the attic”?

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Posted: 18 October 2010 03:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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One of the senses in Webster’s 1828 dictionary is “To abhor; to abominate; to hate extremely; as, to detest crimes or meanness.” Seems to go back away at least on this side of the Atlantic.

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Posted: 18 October 2010 04:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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The OED defines malapropism as “the ludicrous misuse of words, esp. in mistaking a word for another resembling it.” It is the ludicrous nature that distinguishes a malapropism from an ordinary misuse of a word. An example of a classic malapropism is pineapple for pinnacle in the pineapple of politeness. Were despise for detest to be classified as an error in usage, it would still not be a malapropism as it lacks the required silliness.

I hesitate to challenge Dave

Just to be clear, there is nothing wrong with challenging what I say. I make mistakes all the time, as I did here.

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Posted: 18 October 2010 04:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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You can’t use the OED for this, since the relevant section came out in 1895 and hasn’t yet been revised for the third edition.

Does that hold good for the online version as well? Gosh, I had no idea.

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Posted: 18 October 2010 04:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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It’s remarkable that the ‘detest’ sense isn’t strange to me at all. I’m sure that comes from watching so many American movies.

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Posted: 18 October 2010 04:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I’m Australian: I reckon it is mainly used to mean detest in Australia.

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Posted: 18 October 2010 05:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Does that hold good for the online version as well?

Yes, the online version is a combination of the revised third edition (M to rotness) with the second edition, which itself was only a partial updating of the first.  Entries from A to L can be assumed to be nineteenth-century unless otherwise indicated (e.g. under a heading like ADDITIONS SERIES 1997).  Of course, later citations have sometimes been added, but the definitions are from Victoria’s day.

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Posted: 18 October 2010 06:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Speaking of malapropisms, I have just read an editor of Romeo and Juliet saying in a footnote that Shakespeare would have called the Nurse’s scant malapropisms cacozelia. Wikipedia under malapropism suggests Dogberryism or acyrologia, the latter a rhetorical device.
And this which tidies things up nicely!

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Posted: 18 October 2010 09:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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And this which tidies things up nicely!

I find it very odd that they give the pronunciation as “ak-ir-o-lo’-gi-a.” In the first place, it’s not a word that anyone ever says, so the OED (for example) gives no pronunciation for acyrological, acyrologically, and acyrology (they don’t include acyrologia).  In the second place, cy is pronounced /si/ in English, so it should be “a-sir-o-lo’-gi-a” or (preferably) “a-sir-o-lo’-ji-a” if you’re going to supply a pronunciation.

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Posted: 19 October 2010 02:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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In the second place, cy is pronounced /si/ in English, so it should be “a-sir-o-lo’-gi-a” or (preferably) “a-sir-o-lo’-ji-a” if you’re going to supply a pronunciation.

The gentleman is writing of classical rhetoric, and I’m not sure that he is offering acyrologia as an English word. He also writes of tautologia, and of solecismus and barbarismus. He may be suffering from a mild (hopefully, temporary) attack of soraismus ;-)

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