Deserts/ just deserts
Posted: 03 April 2019 10:49 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Is the word deserts meaning, deserving, that which is deserved, worthy of a reward etc. only used today when linked with the phrase, just deserts? Is the word obsolete and limited to just the phrase? 

I’m providing an example, from the OED, on how the word was used. 

1840 Macaulay in Edinb. Rev. Jan. 357 Ordinary criminal justice knows nothing of set-off. The greatest desert cannot be pleaded in answer to a charge of the slightest transgression.

Deserts is now almost exclusively used in reference to arid regions. Also, is it primarily related to receiving punishment rather than a reward? 

It’s also interesting that many people think that because it’s pronounced as desserts it should be spelled that way. 

OED

Etymology: < Old French desert (masculine), deserte, desserte (feminine), derivatives of deservir , desservir to DESERVE v. The French words are analogous to descent, descente, etc., and belong to an obsolete past participle desert of deservir, representing late Latin -servĭtum for -servītum.(Show Less)
1.
a.  Deserving; the becoming worthy of recompense, i.e. of reward or punishment, according to the good or ill of character or conduct; worthiness of recompense, merit or demerit.

3. That which is deserved; a due reward or recompense, whether good or evil. Often in to get, have, meet with one’s deserts.

[ Edited: 03 April 2019 11:02 PM by Logophile ]
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Posted: 04 April 2019 03:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I do think it is obsolete other than in that phrase. Certainly it is obsolete in the singular: I notice that the OED entry, which has not been updated from the original edition, contains no citations for the singular form later than 1861.

And yes, I think that ‘just deserts’ is generally used to signify a come-uppance rather than a reward, just as ‘to get what’s coming to you’ never means anything good. Even simply ‘to get what you deserve’ often has a negative sense, especially if qualified with richly.

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Posted: 04 April 2019 04:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Syntinen Laulu - 04 April 2019 03:13 AM

I notice that the OED entry, which has not been updated from the original edition, contains no citations for the singular form later than 1861.

The OED entry is dated 1895, so the lack of a singular form after 1861 doesn’t tell us anything one way or another. The latest citation of the plural, in the form just deserts, is from 1882.

Both Merriam-Webster and American Heritage say the plural is “usual” or “more familiar.”

But my unquantified experience matches Syntinen Laulu’s. It’s use outside the phrase just deserts is either obsolete or vanishingly rare, and that phrase is always used to refer to punishment or negative consequences. I don’t relish doing a corpus search to verify this, which would require reading every single instance to distinguish between the use for merit and the one for arid region.

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Posted: 04 April 2019 07:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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My computer dictionary says this;

“People who get their just deserts get what they deserve. Deserts here is related to deserve, and is spelled with one -s- in the middle. This usage has no relation to the dessert course of a meal, yet the -ss- spelling (just desserts) is found in the Oxford English Corpus nearly as often as the correct spelling.”

What say you?

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Posted: 05 April 2019 02:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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How easy would it be to weed out the “cute” spelling of the name of a café that specializes in after dinner treats?

[I hit the wrong button and accidentally “edited” the post instead of “quoting” it. I think I’ve restored it to the original—dw.]

[ Edited: 05 April 2019 05:51 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 05 April 2019 03:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Actually there is a family relationship between the two words: it just goes a very long way back - at least one-end-a-half millennia back.

- Your deserts are what you deserve, from an Old French verb deservir, which in its turn came from Latin dēservīre, which was constructed from the verb servīre , ‘to serve’ plus the intensifying prefix de-. It meant ‘to serve zealously, well, or meritoriously’, and thus, in late popular Latin, ‘to merit by service’. All clear?

- The word dessert arrived in English in the 16th century. The French word dessert comes from the word desservir ”to remove what has been served, to clear (the table)”, deriving from the Latin dis- (a negative or ‘reversing’ prefix) plus servīre . Originally dessert wasn’t part of the meal proper; you left the table at the end of dinner, and went off to another room where sweet wines, cakes, and sweetmeats were laid out on a side-table called a banquet (from Italian banchetto, ‘little table’, via French), and sipped and nibbled at these, while the servants cleared the table (which usually included taking away the actual tables, which were typically boards on trestles). That might conclude the evening, or the company might return to the cleared and reconfigured hall for dancing or other entertainments.

We’ve been through most of this at least twice before, here and here.

Personally I wouldn’t be surprised if just desserts eventually becomes the standard form; the 2012 thread makes clear thet Svinyard, for one, had imagined a perfectly good eggcorn explanation for that.

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Posted: 05 April 2019 05:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Faldage - 05 April 2019 02:55 AM

How easy would it be to weed out the “cute” spelling of the name of a café that specializes in after dinner treats?

A search of BYU’s Corpus of Contemporary English turns up 75 hits for just desserts, 29 of which are the bakery chain. (Relatively easy to do as there aren’t all that many hits and the bakery uses capital letters.) There are 45 hits for just deserts; so it’s just about equal.

This is a corpus of edited texts; I suspect a corpus of unedited texts would have a different ratio. (There are too many hits in the ones I’ve consulted to do a quick check.)

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Posted: 05 April 2019 08:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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We’ve been through most of this at least twice before, here and here.

Syntinen Laulu, Yes, I thought we had discussed this topic before, but I had forgotten that I had posted an original comment on the subject matter. I appreciate your investigation on the topic. I always check with Dave’s big list before initiating a new topic; I found nothing relating to the phrase. Regardless, repeating this theme will now have an indelible effect on my memory, at least for me. It’s been said that some things must be repeated countless times before the information is embedded in one’s brain.

Regarding my original post on this new thread, I was solely interested in the word desert/deserts, independent of the phrase. The OED entry is dated 1895, as Dave informed us; therefore, as Dave commented, it “doesn’t tell us anything one way or another.” Reading classical literature I might have encountered the word in its singular or plural form outside of the phrase, just deserts, but I cannot recall if I had.

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