Lexicoblog

The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Appropriacy or appropriateness?

This morning, I was putting together the slides for a webinar about teaching academic vocabulary I'm doing on Thursday and in talking about the choices learners make when deciding which is the best word to use, I had a category that included ideas such as register and connotation, i.e. the most appropriate word for the context. I wanted a general heading for this section, but then came to a stop over whether to use appropriateness or appropriacy. My first instinct was that appropriateness felt a bit awkward and cumbersome to say, whereas appropriacy felt neater, more concise. As a "language professional" though I'm always wary about making silly linguistic gaffes, so I thought I'd better check. 

I checked the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary first and, slightly to my relief, found it includes both - so I wasn't going completely mad. Oddly though, appropriacy has its own entry (with two senses; 1 "the extent to which something is suitable acceptable", 2 "the extent to which a word or phrase sounds correct and natural in relation to the situation it is used in"), whereas appropriateness is just a run-on at the end of appropriate. Unsure as to whether there was some difference of meaning or usage that I was missing, I went to the OED online and I was rather taken aback to find that appropriacy doesn't feature at all there! Now, my interest piqued, I went on to check Collins online and this time it was there, but interestingly, only in the sense of the right word for the context. I was tempted at this point to head off and consult a corpus, but with more pressing things to be done, I resisted the urge!

In such circumstances, I usually have confidence in my own intuition, provided I know I'm not completely wrong. Somehow this time though, I wavered and went for the "safer" option. Thus I now have a slide headed appropriateness, which I just know I'm going to stumble over pronouncing ...

[If you'd like to tune in and find out, there's still just enough time to register here, if you're quick.]

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5 Comments:

Blogger Diane Nicholls said...

I'd go for 'appropriateness' every time, Julie. It looks like 'appropriacy' is limited to sociolinguistics and similar, so best reserved for a specialist audience. For your webinar audience, 'appropriateness' seems the more 'appropriate to me ;-). This graph from ngram viewer gives an idea of relative frequencies in Google books:

http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=appropriateness%2C+appropriacy&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=0&smoothing=3

5:05 pm  
Blogger The Toblerone Twins said...

Thanks, Diane, I knew someone would take up the challenge :) You're right, although I think in my context, 'appropriacy' is actually appropriate, as you say, it's much less frequent, so I'll stick with the awkward mouthful that is 'appropriateness'!

5:12 pm  
Anonymous Liz said...

coming to this a bit late, but notice that MED has appropriacy as specifically linguistics while appropriateness is a runon at appropriate (just the one sense). Did you stumble?

10:29 am  
Blogger The Toblerone Twins said...

Thanks, Liz. I think I went with 'appropriateness' in the end and managed to get my mouth round it okay :)

12:30 pm  
Blogger Tyson Seburn said...

This struck me because I always write 'appropriacy' but inevitably a red squiggly line appears under it (even as I write this comment) as though it isn't a real word. Surprised to see others do the opposite.

2:16 am  

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