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While answering and commenting on another question I discovered that I am apparently thinking about anonymity differently than everyone else who responded. There are two questions stemming from that discussion, this is the first:

What words can fill the gap in this sentence?

[Word] is anonymous.

The examples I seem to find acceptable:

The writer is anonymous.

The paper was anonymous.

The call was anonymous.

Should I be saying:

The paper was written anonymously.

The call was made anonymously.

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The only one that sounds odd is paper. I don't know what sense of paper you mean, but it doesn't seem logical that a paper would be anonymous. If you search BNC it comes up with nothing. But uses like anonymous letter, for example, are quite common. –  z7sg Ѫ Mar 23 '11 at 15:04
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Yes, "letter" would a better word choice for what I was trying to ask. I meant "paper" as in a published paper which isn't likely to be published anonymously since recognition is half the reason it was published. –  MrHen Mar 23 '11 at 15:05
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I agree with all of yur example sentences, though I would say that 'anonymous call' is also acceptable. Were you to say 'an anonymous paper' it might also be acceptable but would have a different meaning, i.e. that the paper had no name/title or that the paper you are referencing is being kept confidential. –  Karl Apr 5 '11 at 5:51
    
I think anonymous call and anonymous letter are really common. So much so that I'd actually rather say This is an anonymous letter than This letter is anonymous. –  FumbleFingers Apr 8 '11 at 1:06

1 Answer 1

up vote 6 down vote accepted

All of your example sentences sound fine for me. In general, it's acceptable to refer to a piece of communication as being anonymous if what you mean is that it was created anonymously. This is a common idiom.

However, this doesn't necessarily apply to all words derived from the same stem. Saying the writer's anonymity sounds fine; saying the paper's anonymity strikes me as questionable. Others may find it to be unobjectionable, but I am among those speakers who would balk at the construction. Thus, for maximum clarity and fluency, you may find it useful to reword things like the paper's anonymity to the anonymity of the paper's author.

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Right. "The paper was anonymous" sounds non-idiomatic. But: "We received an anonymous letter" would fly. –  The Raven Mar 23 '11 at 15:04
    
How about "The paper is anonymous"? Does that strike the same nerve as "The paper's anonymity"? –  MrHen Mar 23 '11 at 15:06
    
A paper/poem/song by an anonimous would be more appropriate I guess. –  nico Mar 23 '11 at 15:21
    
@nico: No. "an anonymous" without a noun is not possible in English. –  Colin Fine Mar 23 '11 at 16:04
    
When I was a kid I used to think that Anon was an ancient poet/philosopher. :D –  z7sg Ѫ Mar 23 '11 at 16:30

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