The list of words in the OS X /usr/share/dict/words file includes the surprising word "antiturnpikeism". (It seems it's not OS X-specific. It's also in the wamerican package.) I can't seem to find reference to this word anywhere through the normal search engines (except for sites that seem to just use this file for search engine optimization).

Is this a real word? Have I found one of those fake words inserted just to prove copyright theft of a dictionary? Does anyone know the history of this "word"?

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    Turnpike is a word. That being so, it has a right to take prefixes and suffixes as the author wishes. Antiturnpikeism is therefore a "word." It seems to have no precedent use, at least not in mainstream writing. As for its appearance in some documentation mentioned, it similarly also appears in other places: Google the string. – Kris Dec 27 '16 at 8:51
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    @Kris - My son has been known to turn on the "Avoid toll roads" option in his car's GPS device. I guess we could call that a form of antiturnpikeism. – J.R. Dec 27 '16 at 10:49
  • It's a legitimate construction, and would be understood by most native English readers/listeners, even though they'd never seen/heard it before. A lot easier to comprehend than "antidisestablishmentarianism". – Hot Licks Dec 27 '16 at 13:21
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    Neologisms can be created at will, of course. But to be incorporated into an official "dictionary" of sorts is an altogether different matter. I checked -- it's not as if that dictionary created "anti" + "-ism" versions of every possible infixed morpheme. This was one of a fairly select group. My first step was of course to Google it. I did not find one legitimate use of the word. This question, last I checked, instantly made it to the top of the list. If you did indeed find an instance, please link here. I'm just looking for a (real) origin story. – givo Dec 27 '16 at 20:09

As it happened, 'anti-turnpikeism' appeared in The Nonconformist (issue 3, p 446) in 1843. The article containing it, by Edward Miall (link may be paywalled), was later reproduced in the Times (London), and then picked up and reprinted, unattributed, by Bradford Observer, West Yorkshire, England (Thursday 29 June 1843; link paywalled).

Here is a less-than representative section of the text:

In short, it would seem that the assertion of the supremacy of the laws is all nonsense; the potentiality of anti-turnpikeism is proclaimed; our lady the Queen hides her diminished head before our lady Becca—the former is only Victoria Regina; tbe latter is Regina Rebecca, the most puissante of sovereigns.

(op. cit., bold emphasis mine)

This use, in turn, grew out of antiturnpike arguments recorded as early as 1787 in the popular press. Here I include an excerpt from a 1787 letter signed "ANTI-TURNPIKE", which was the first instance of the use of 'anti-turnpike' I was able to turn up (without leaving my chair):

I give great credit to Mercator for the polite and liberal manner in which he expresses his sentiments, in your last paper. His arguments do not, however, carry conviction to my mind: I must therefore trouble you with a few observations on the same subject. Were I persuaded, that either the farmer or tradesman would be benefited by a turnpike-road between Bury and Thetford, or even that it were necessary to the safety of travellers of any other description, I assure you my feeble opposition should cease; but never with my consent, shall the most trifling tax be laid on the public for the profit of the publican, or in order that my Lord A. or Mr. B may sleep sounder in their equipages, or that they may get to London half an hour sooner than they otherwise could do. Can Mercator point out any part of the road in question, which requires an unusual strength of team? Can he shew any swamps to be filled up, any steep hills to be levelled, any waters that require from their depth and rapidity, a bridge to thrown over them? If he can, the interference of Parliament may be necessary; the parishes would be unequal to the expence. But this is not the case—the whole of the road is, I assert, at present, sufficiently good for every purpose of the farmer; and, were the quarters cut down, and a few white posts put up, would be perfectly safe for the highest phaeton that folly and fashion ever joined to build. Were Mercator aware of the great expence the parishes of Fornham and Ingham have been at on the account of this road, and how good their part of it is, he would not I am sure, think it fair to burthen them with a turnpike, because another parish has not done their duty; particularly were he to know, that it is the intention of the magistrates to make use, without delay, of the power the law has placed in their hands, for the evil complained of. One argument in Mercator’s letter does, I confess, appear very extraordinary. If I understood him right, he is a friend to the proposed turnpike-road, because by it, the price of corn would be increased at Bury market. It is too true, that this has been the consequence all over the kingdom of turnpike-roads; and, therefore, I consider them as nuisances, injurious to the poor, though convenient to the rich. Would to Heaven, that access to the capital were now as difficult as in those good old hospitable times, when if a man, who lived 90 miles from London, was obliged to go thither, he first made his will before he undertook so a dangerous journey.
Trusting to your impartiality for the insertion of this, as soon as possible,
I am Sir, your’s.

Bury and Norwich Post, Suffolk, England, Wednesday 09 May 1787, p 2 (paywalled link).

Similar anti-turnpikeism continued to be mentioned in the popular press throughout the 19th and into the first decade of the 20th century. From these records, with their references to "anti-turnpike agitation", "anti-turnpike brigade", "anti-turnpike riots", and "anti-turnpike mob", it is evident that anti-turnpike sentiment was quite violent, especially around 1843 (see the instance of 'anti-turnpikeism' first quoted). It is noted in 1903, with historical reference, as a form of 'Rebeccaism':

... a manifestation of that species of lawlessness which goes by the name of Rebeccaism, which first broke out in Wales in 1843 during the anti-turnpike agitation, and of which there are still recrudescences when the people of any particular district suffer under any real or imaginary grievance.

Nottingham Evening Post, Nottinghamshire, England, 01 January 1903, p 5 (paywalled link).

Note that 'anti-turnpikism' does appear in OED, where it is attested by the 1843 quote from Miall. There also (OED) appears 'Rebeccaism', which from 'Rebeccaite' at first appears to denote a practitioner of the lawless and wanton spearing of salmon (a sense I derived from the quotes in OED attesting 'Rebeccaite'), but which on further examination of the source in 'Rebecca' (n.) denotes

The (notional) leader of a movement whose supporters attacked and demolished turnpike toll gates chiefly in south and west Wales in the period between 1839–44 in protest at high tolls; (also) a member of such a group of protesters. In later use applied to similar groups carrying out other acts of social protest, esp. organized salmon-poaching raids.

Although mostly male, the leaders of such groups frequently disguised themselves in women's clothing, blackening their faces, and sometimes also wearing horsehair wigs or beards.

["Rebecca, n.". OED Online. December 2016. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/159182 (accessed February 26, 2017).]

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    Thank you for this. An impressive example of OED beating out Google (whose first result is actually this question, as of March 4, 2017). – givo Mar 4 '17 at 23:02
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    Welcome. I would have been at a loss without the historical newspapers...and even with them, it was slow going to get to Rebecca. – JEL Mar 5 '17 at 9:01

Even without finding a use of the term on the web, figuring out the probable origin is easy, and probably explains why the word is so rare, and likely localized in usage:

A "turnpike", in the US, is a "toll road" -- a multi-lane, limited-access highway which one must pay a fee to use. If some entity (a government agency or perhaps a private company organized to build the turnpike) wished to build a new turnpike on or near your property, you might object. You would thus be "anti-turnpike".

And, in the discussions between the parties leading up to a decision to grant the various permits needed, the political stance of you and your compatriots might be referred to as "antiturnpikeism". However, most discussions of the topic would occur in meetings of city councils, "development authorities", and other relatively localized venues, and press coverage would be limited to small local newspapers and TV stations. Hence, the term would not make it onto the Internet to the degree necessary for Google to pick it up.

(This problem is actually amplified by the fact that the word has somehow propagated onto the web in several hundred word lists, and these "poison" Google such that it's less likely to notice "real" uses of the term.)

(There are also a few figurative cases where the same term might apply. For instance, it has been proposed from time to time to change the Internet into a fee-based mechanism, thus making the Internet a figurative "toll road" or "turnpike", with political stances again leading to the term in question. However, if this were the origin one would expect to find "true" references to the word in many places on the web.)

As to the question of whether it's a "copyright trap", the answer is "no". Even if it were originally intended for that (for which I see no evidence), the word now appears in too many different word lists (and is even used as a user ID by some) such that it could not in any way be used to "prove" copyright infringement.

  • I'm really looking for a reference. Sure, it's easy enough to conceive of a usage, but that's just hypothetical. Also, those word lists contain every word, so the "poisonous" aspect would apply to any word we might reference, yet it is usually not a problem in doing Google word searches. Finally, I don't think we can answer "no" to the copyright trap question at all. You would expect to see it crop up if it is doing its job as a trap. These might not be violations, even; it depends on the license terms. Plus, even if it were ineffective now, that doesn't mean that was not its original intent. – givo Dec 30 '16 at 5:04
  • @givo - Many of those word lists simply contain random words, such as one might use for passwords -- they are far from containing "every word". And any credible "trap word" would have to be one that could not be readily formed by obvious prefixing and suffixing. – Hot Licks Dec 30 '16 at 13:40
  • This particular list is a "dictionary" list which actually contains over 1 million words, and it's intent is to be a maximally comprehensive source of words. But I don't think that's relevant to this discussion anyway. You do have a good point, though, that you might not want a trap word that might conceivable be formed as a neologism in the future. So, either this is not a trap word, or it is an ill-conceived one (which is possible of course, given that this is an open-source project and doesn't really have commercial value). Perhaps the original author was an antiturnpikeist? – givo Dec 31 '16 at 2:27
  • @givo - For a "trap word" one would presumably pick something like "angathism", which is a plausible Greek-ish term for some esoteric comcept. – Hot Licks Dec 31 '16 at 2:37
  • (When I was trying to find an actual use of "antiturnpikeism" I kept Googling for that word and adding -someotherword followed by -anotherword, picking words out of the lists I was finding. I got up to 6 or 8 such words and I was still getting lots of lists, telling me that the lists were not simply copied from each other.) – Hot Licks Dec 31 '16 at 2:40

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