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Is author the right word for a person who utters anything? I know author is used for articles or novels but it is also applicable to something tiny like an utterance?

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    If you mean a spoken utterance, what's wrong with speaker? Apr 1 at 12:20
  • @KateBunting I mean a short message like a SMS.
    – ceving
    Apr 1 at 12:25
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    You can use writer if you think author sounds too pretentious. Apr 1 at 12:30
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    Writer is probably better, as author typically means writer of a literary work, although its sense is sometimes extended to mean the creator of pretty much anything. I guess it's possible for someone to write a text (decide on the words and meaning) and someone else to actually text it (key it into the phone) but that's getting into very pedantic distinctions.
    – Stuart F
    Apr 1 at 12:31
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    The word "utter" covers other modes than vocal - M-W: to give public expression to. So, an obvious sword for the source of an utterance is utterer. Apr 2 at 3:25

3 Answers 3

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The person who utters something is the source of the utterance. The use of "utterance" would be most appropriate for situations in which the sentiment was expressed orally, not in a written or published form.

STRONGLY ROOTED in the English speech community is the belief that the utterance, "Please pass the salt," is efficacious in causing salt to move from one end of a table to the source of the utterance.

Source: Michael Pacanowsky, Washington Post

It is the role of the listener to determine the meaning of the gestalt (or single word, in the case of the analytic processor), which can sometimes be determined by identifying the original source of the utterance.

Source: Alissa Ketterling, "How to Make Echolalia Functional"

The indications concerning the communicating and modal subjects stem from this description, which thus signals the source of the utterance and the points of view expressed in it.

Source: Oswald Ducrot et al., Diacritics

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The term "speaker" (Merriam-Webster def. 1(a): "one that speaks") would be a more plain English term.

Bartlett's Familiar Quotations (16th edition) (1992) by John Bartlett and Justin Kaplan, calls anyone who utters a quotation which is included in this leading reference book for famous quotations an "author" whether or not the original quotation source was oral or in writing, following the usage of the first edition of this reference book from 1855.

But, the suggestion to use the word "source" found in another answer to this question, would be a better choice of words than "author", in part, for the reason set forth later in this answer which is closely related to the fact that the word "author" has come to be associated with written statements.

In the law of evidence, someone who utters something is called the "declarant". See Federal Rule of Evidence 801(b) ("“Declarant” means the person who made the statement."). (As an aside, the word "Declarant" has two acceptable pronunciations, one of which places the accent on the first syllable, and the other of which places the accent on the second syllable.)

In the law of slander, making an utterance that is slanderous in someone else's presence is called "publication" of the slanderous statement, and a person making the slanderous statement is sometimes called the "publisher" of the statement, although this is technical legal usage that differs in shade of meaning from the ordinary plain English meaning of the word "publisher".

In the law of copyright, unlike the usage of Bartlett's, someone who merely makes an utterance is not an "author" of the utterance, because a statement is not potentially protected by a copyright that protects the person who made the statement until it is fixed in tangible form, which an oral statement is not.

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The original sense of author was the general sense, originator/creator:

author (noun)

mid-14c, auctor, autour, autor

  • "father, creator, one who brings about, one who makes or creates" someone or something, from Old French auctor, acteor "author, originator, creator, instigator" (12c., Modern French auteur) and directly from Latin auctor "promoter, producer, father, progenitor; builder, founder; trustworthy writer, authority; historian; performer, doer; responsible person, teacher," literally "one who causes to grow," agent noun from auctus, past participle of augere "to increase" (from PIE root *aug- (1) "to increase").

[The Online Etymological Dictionary]

Cambridge Dictionary lists the general sense as still being acceptable, though it lists it after the far more common 'writer' sense and labels it as formal:

author [noun; count]

  • B1: the writer of a book, article, play, etc.:

He is the author of two books on French history.

[+ further examples]

  • [formal]: a person who begins or creates something:

She's the author of the company's recent success.

She's the author of all our troubles.

However, although 'utter' and 'utterance' are by no means informal in register, using 'author' to refer to something so mundane is, as you imply, faintly ridiculous. It might be used this way in jest.

But, if something Churchill say came out with on the spur of the moment was recognised as a memorable pronouncement, it would doubtless become a famous quote, and 'author' would now be fitting as there is the required gravitas.

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