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A couple of weeks ago I came across a word meaning someone who dislikes language change. Despite my joy at learning that English has a word for this, I can’t for the life of me remember what the word actually is.

I’ve Googled many variants, tried reverse dictionary, and am now crawling through a list of more than 1200 words ending in ‑ist.

Does anyone know a word (ending in ‑ist) that means a person who dislikes changes to language?

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    "Peever" is what we mostly call'em. – John Lawler Aug 13 '14 at 3:36
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    stickler, traditionalist, purist, pedant, perfectionist, formalist, literalist, doctrinaire, quibbler, dogmatist – Kris Aug 13 '14 at 6:12
  • A term for a stickler in regard to language, esp., its words, would suit the OP's requirement. However, I'm not sure there's such a term. – Kris Aug 13 '14 at 6:18
  • I'm sorry I can't help much more than tell you that "linguistic purist" is the closest I'll ever come to answer your question. If you're wondering what the antonym might be it would be "linguistic syncratist" :) – K - Aug 13 '14 at 6:49
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    You are too late, the word has been changed to 'fadzapper'. I just invented it. – WS2 Aug 13 '14 at 11:38
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Prescriptivists are those who believe there is one 'right' way to speak/write a language. This typically includes a strong resistance to changes in language brought about by popular usage.

  • Oh, if only you had quoted from the Wiki link, your answer would have been upvoted. – Mari-Lou A Aug 13 '14 at 17:33
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    Upvoted anyway, as it was the very word I'd learned... and forgotten before the hour was up. Thanks to Andy and everyone that replied. – EndureChaos Aug 20 '14 at 5:40
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Recognizing that not every antiquarian archaeophile need be an actual neophobe, nor must all neophobes be limited to matters of language, a more targeted term would seem to be in order. That’s because an unqualified term like purist or traditionalist wouldn’t be quite up to the job requirements unless it were prefixed with something like language or linguistic.

Now if it were me needing to come up with a term for this, I’d happily join together more than one word, each reasonably basic, to create an unambiguous term.

You have three possible ways of doing that join operation, but how you do that is up to you.

  1. If you use spaces to join these multiple words into a compound, nobody will be scared away from them. Simpler terms like language primitivists for people forever mired in atavism like an ancient fly in yesteryear’s amber, may or may not be easily understood. This is the approach I would use, since it is always going to be clearer than runningeverythingtogethercaneverbe.

  2. If instead of spaces you use hyphens to chain these separate qualifiying or limiting words together, then some folks might be a bit put off by the glosso-labio-laryngeal catenativist concoctures that might ensue. So let’s not go down that route.

  3. That leaves you with the third way of making compound words: if you use nothing at all to glue your words together, electing instead for the so-called “German approach” so beloved of otorhinolaryngologists, then any number of possible terms suggest themselves — but might not be immediately apprehended by the casual listener.

    Just as a musophobist is someone who regards poetry with a suspicious dislike, one can readily neologue any number of sesquipedalian terms for these stick-in-the-muds1 who feel the same way about novelties in language, of which a neolinguaphobist is just the most obvious.

The appealingly amusing thing about that particular choice is that such linguistic fossils as you describe would surely despise having a word like neolinguaphobist minted on demand and waved menacingly in their general direction. :)


1. Or is that sticks-in-the-mud? :)

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    Very interesting reading...I'd like to hear a comment from a Purist about it :)) – user66974 Aug 13 '14 at 8:06
  • @tchrist - Well. that was an absolutely brilliant reply I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I am in awe of the level of thought that went into the three options. Of course, if you haven't much effort into it... then I'm jealous. I would have driven myself nuts trying to come up with something that good. Voted up. However, Andy has to get the green tick, as he got the very word that I had forgotten. Prescriptivist. – EndureChaos Aug 20 '14 at 5:39
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Purist is probably a good term, even though it does not refer only to languages:

  • A purist is one who desires that an item remain true to its essence and free from adulterating or diluting influences . The term may be used in almost any field, and can be applied either to the self or to others. Use of the term may be either pejorative or complimentary, depending on the context.
  • Because the appellation depends on subjective notions of what is "pure" as opposed to "adulterating" as applied to any particular item, conflict can arise both as to whether a person so labeled is actually a purist and as to whether that is desirable.

    • According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, the term dates from 1706 and is defined as "a person who adheres strictly and often excessively to a tradition", especially "one preoccupied with the purity of a language and its protection from the use of foreign or altered forms."

Source:http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Purist

  • Why purist? Why not try some newer word? – Kris Aug 13 '14 at 6:12
  • I was thinking about it actually... Any idea? – user66974 Aug 13 '14 at 6:15
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Why, these people are called "les immortels", of course.

More seriously: you'd typically describe such as person as a "linguistic conservative" (which is very different from a conservative language!).

  • Reminds me of conservatives saying how since English was good enough for the Bible, it should be good enough for anybody. :) Of course, the only unchanging languages are dead ones. – tchrist Aug 13 '14 at 17:57
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Purist: a person who wants something to be totally correct or unchanged, especially something they know a lot

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    While this is ostensibly correct (see Josh's answer), the system has awarded a downvote because it's determined this is incomplete. It does appear to have been cut off half-way through a sentence, and some sort of corroboration, correctly cited, is always good. Do have a look at some upvoted answers to see what works here, and do stick around to contribute more. – Andrew Leach Aug 13 '14 at 6:34

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