Author Topic: Merriam-Webster finally agrees with me.  (Read 770 times)

Llano

Merriam-Webster finally agrees with me.
« on: November 14, 2018, 02:25:03 AM »
For decades Mirriam-Webster has listed backseat as a noun, and I cringe every time I see it in a novel, which is often.  A backseat driver sits in the back seat, not the backseat.

When spoken there is, or should be, a slight difference between back seat and backseat.

Now, finally, at least in the online version, Merriam-Webster lists back seat as a noun with backseat as a less-common variant.

Why is it, or was it, backseat but not frontseat?

And why is it still backyard but not front yard? You have a backyard cookout in the back yard, not the backyard. Again, when spoken, it's different.

Maybe I should just identify as British and use front garden and back garden. With their love for hyphens maybe a back-seat driver sits in the back seat.


 

Becca Mills

Re: Merriam-Webster finally agrees with me.
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2018, 03:27:46 AM »
Why is it, or was it, backseat but not frontseat?

And why is it still backyard but not front yard? You have a backyard cookout in the back yard, not the backyard. Again, when spoken, it's different.

Maybe it's because "back" is already part of so many long-established words where there's no hyphen or space: background, backhoe, backdraft, backpedal, backfill, etc. Established patterns seem sort of magnetic, drawing other words to mimic them. An example is "all right" --> "alright," which mimics existing "al-" words like "already," "almost," etc. In contrast, I don't think "front" has that kind of pattern pressure happening.

As for why the dictionary changed, it's probably because a change in usage was noted. Dictionaries try to describe what they see happening with words, rather than prescribing what should happen, though there's a fine line there for sure.
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Electric Dan

Re: Merriam-Webster finally agrees with me.
« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2018, 03:54:43 AM »
As for why the dictionary changed, it's probably because a change in usage was noted. Dictionaries try to describe what they see happening with words, rather than prescribing what should happen, though there's a fine line there for sure.

Well, they have to be careful else there could be a repeat of the violence that happened in 2013.

4 Copy Editors Killed In Ongoing AP Style, Chicago Manual Gang Violence
     
 
The following users thanked this post: Mark Gardner, KFaitour, Maggie Ann

Maggie Ann

Re: Merriam-Webster finally agrees with me.
« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2018, 06:34:02 AM »
As for why the dictionary changed, it's probably because a change in usage was noted. Dictionaries try to describe what they see happening with words, rather than prescribing what should happen, though there's a fine line there for sure.

Well, they have to be careful else there could be a repeat of the violence that happened in 2013.

4 Copy Editors Killed In Ongoing AP Style, Chicago Manual Gang Violence

Dan, did you ghostwrite (or is that ghost write) that story?

           
 

Electric Dan

Re: Merriam-Webster finally agrees with me.
« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2018, 06:37:48 AM »
Dan, did you ghostwrite (or is that ghost write) that story?

No.  I also did not ghost-write it.
     
 
The following users thanked this post: Mark Gardner, Maggie Ann

Becca Mills

Re: Merriam-Webster finally agrees with me.
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2018, 09:36:38 AM »
As for why the dictionary changed, it's probably because a change in usage was noted. Dictionaries try to describe what they see happening with words, rather than prescribing what should happen, though there's a fine line there for sure.

Well, they have to be careful else there could be a repeat of the violence that happened in 2013.

4 Copy Editors Killed In Ongoing AP Style, Chicago Manual Gang Violence

<chuckle> Love that one.   :icon_mrgreen:
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Gaylord Fancypants

Re: Merriam-Webster finally agrees with me.
« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2018, 08:49:04 AM »
For decades Mirriam-Webster has listed backseat as a noun, and I cringe every time I see it in a novel, which is often.  A backseat driver sits in the back seat, not the backseat.

When spoken there is, or should be, a slight difference between back seat and backseat.

Now, finally, at least in the online version, Merriam-Webster lists back seat as a noun with backseat as a less-common variant.

Why is it, or was it, backseat but not frontseat?

And why is it still backyard but not front yard? You have a backyard cookout in the back yard, not the backyard. Again, when spoken, it's different.

Maybe I should just identify as British and use front garden and back garden. With their love for hyphens maybe a back-seat driver sits in the back seat.

It is common for a two-word noun phrase to be turned into one word (or hyphenated) when used attributively (as though it was an adjective). "I sat in the back seat" and "He's a backseat driver" are both common enough (though admittedly lots of people write them various ways regardless of part of speech). I think that figurative use of "backseat" is way more common than any attributive use of "front seat", which is probably why the one-word spelling has caught on for that but not "frontseat".

Some nouns are used attributively so much they gain new meanings that only occur in the attributive -- like "This is a blanket rule" -- I would argue "backseat" is one of those. Written as one word, or with a hyphen, and used as an adjective to mean "micromanaging something one doesn't have control over" (people say all kinds of things: "she was a backseat mother", "he's a backseat DIYer", etc.

"backyard" is the same way -- we use it attributively in phrases like "backyard barbecue" and "backyard baseball". I'm sure people use "frontyard" attributively sometimes too, though I can't recall actually hearing that, but it certainly isn't as common as backyard. That is probably why it's never written as one word.

So, anyway, in conclusion, I disagree with M&W's decision in this case.
 

JRTomlin

Re: Merriam-Webster finally agrees with me.
« Reply #7 on: December 16, 2018, 12:04:37 PM »
I write novels set in Scotland and refer to kaleyards at least partially because it amuses me. I have had a few people ask me if Scots really ate that much kale.  :icon_rofl:
 

David VanDyke

Re: Merriam-Webster finally agrees with me.
« Reply #8 on: December 16, 2018, 03:31:42 PM »
I have the same problem when people misuse online and on line. You go on line to look at the online stuff.
Never listen to people with no skin in the game.