An Open Letter to Dan Dierdorf

And to Brian Billick. And to all the other football analysts who use the word prideful. The Baltimore defense is not prideful. The Panthers offense is not prideful. I know you mean "full of pride," but there's already a word for that. It's called proud.

I realize that prideful has wormed its way into our lexicon, and now dictionaries even consider it a word, thanks primarily to your efforts. But please, what's wrong with just using proud?

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10 Responses to “An Open Letter to Dan Dierdorf”

  1. Borat says:

    Dear Brain:

    Commentators are prideful.

    Commenters are proud!

  2. joe km fischer says:

    I think the answer is in Guy Deutscher's book "The Unfolding of Language: an Evolutionary Tour of Mankind's Greatest Invention." Deutscher discusses how/why languages change over time, and I think he offers two relevant clues as to why an announcer would say "prideful."

    1. New words are invented when people apply grammar patterns to a word that doesn't actually fit that pattern. In this case, the pattern is "adding the prefix 'ful' to a noun makes an adjective." Now, the adjective form of "pride" is obviously "proud," but the pattern is familiar, so a person might use it (albeit incorrectly). Another phrase like "full of pride" is also somewhat familiar, so "prideful" makes some logical sense.

    2. When a word or words become familiar with use over time, they lose their power. Hence people need to find new, bigger, or more words to try convey power. If you ask me how I'm doing, and I say "good," that's pretty mild. If I'm really happy, "good" would be accurate, but if I really want to convey my happiness, I might need to go further. "Great." "Very good." "Spectacular." I could even go to hyperbole like "couldn't be better," but even that, through overuse, has lost power. I need to find a new way to convey the strength of my meaning, because the old ways have grown weaker with familiarity.

    "Proud" is a short, familiar word--it's overused and easily dismissed. "Prideful," even if originally incorrect, sounds stronger. It's longer, it's more original, it's less familiar--it has a chance to convey importance that "proud" might not.

    Deutcher offers several examples from different languages of this phenomenon. Off the top of my head, I think the French word for "today" means literally something like "on the day of this day." "This day" wasn't strong enough--eventually people tried to emphasize the importance with "on the day of this day."

    So, this may be annoying while it happens, and it often starts with error. But it's a common, natural phenomenon in language. Eventually, perhaps "prideful" won't be strong enough, and announcers will say the defense is "full of pridefulness"!

  3. Bob Weber says:

    While we are at it, can we stop throwing around the phrase "Future Hall of Famer"? While Brett Favre, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are probably a lock, it's far from a certainty that Kurt Warner's three Super Bowl appearances with two different teams is going to get him in.

  4. Milo Busbecq says:

    You are mistaken. "Prideful" has been a word for a very long time. OED (the first sense is the oldest (attested not all that much later than "proud," and the second sense is attested over 150 years ago):

    1. Of a person: haughty, arrogant, having a proud character; (of an action, emotion, etc.) resulting from haughty pride or arrogance.
    c1429 Mirour Mans Saluacioune (1986) l. 4039 Some man wille he inpugne be pridefulle bolnyng. 1488 HARY Actis & Deidis Schir William Wallace III. 137 In prydefull ire. 1533 J. GAU tr. C. Pedersen Richt Vay 12 Thay quhilk ar pridful of thair wisdome or science. a1572 J. KNOX Hist. Reformation in Wks. (1846) I. 155 The pridefull and scornefull people that stood by, mocked him. c1650 J. SPALDING Memorialls Trubles Scotl. & Eng. (1850) I. 231 Feiring he wes prydfull and seditious. 1661 S. PORDAGE Mundorum Explicatio I. 86 Humility Prince of this Train, first go Into the Earth, confront thy prideful Foe. 1740 P. WHITEHEAD Gymnasiad II. 36 High disdain sat prideful on his brow. 1786 R. BURNS Twa Dogs 144 Some rascal's pridefu' greed to quench. 1817 S. T. COLERIDGE Alice du Clos iii, As if in prideful scorn Of flight and fear he stay'd behind. 1838 Southern Lit. Messenger Oct. 663/2 How frequently is the ‘olden ballad’ the prideful theme of our native poets. c1843 T. CARLYLE Hist. Sketches (1898) 340 Why should not such a man be prideful? 1900 Cent. Mag. Dec. 293 The doctor's stately and prideful wife. 1925 E. C. SMITH Mang Howes 19 A'm seek-staaed o the..priedfih bluistereen that a body offen hes ti thole. 1956 B. CHUTE Greenwillow v. 64 He's prideful, and that's a sin, but he's been good to me. 2004 D. MORRIS Rewriting Hist. iv. 83 An apology can work where stonewalling and prideful refusal to admit wrongdoing does not.

    2. Taking pride in some particular fact, action, or achievement; accompanied by, prompting, or meriting a feeling of pride in some action, achievement, etc.
    1841 Tait's Mag. 8 110/1 The father prideful as the scene reveals, And the fond mother smiling as she feels. 1848 T. N. TALFOURD Final Mem. Lamb 300, I well remember the flush of prideful pleasure which came over his face. 1897 Westm. Gaz. 14 July 2/1 He may, in a prideful moment, declaim Cowper: I am monarch of all I survey; My right there is none to dispute. 1939 Sun (Baltimore) 19 Oct. 11/3 She was very prideful of this, and when she finished Bill..went over and congratulated her. a1967 A. RANSOME Autobiogr. (1976) i. 19, I was practising day in day out the simpler conjuring tricks that were to lead me to the prideful moments of a professional magician who, before vast audiences, should produce rabbits out of a hat. 1985 C. YEAGER & L. JANOS Yeager (1986) 12, I was prideful about keeping my word. 2004 F. FOER How Soccer explains World iii. 78 Tottenham fans actually apply the moniker to themselves in a complimentary, prideful way.

    Now, none of this is to say that you can't dislike the use of "prideful," but said use is not in the least a new phenomenon.

  5. James says:

    I still like "prideful" better than "trickeration".

  6. Tarr says:

    It's a perfectly cromulent word.

    (I'm pretty sure cromulent now appears in many dictionaries... not sure about "embiggen", though.)

  7. Brian Burke says:

    Jebediah Springfield would be prideful of your comment.

  8. Brian Burke says:

    Milo-I was fully aware it's a word in the dictionary. It just doesn't mean what these guys think it does. Are you suggesting Dierdorf thinks the Panthers offense is haughty and arrogant?

  9. Anonymous says:

    also: aggressiveness vs aggression

  10. Anonymous says:

    @BB, Milo is probably suggesting that Dierdorf is using it in the second sense with the examples of Chuck Yeager using it to describe himself and the other writer using it to describe Tottenham fans.

    Btw, pridefulness is in the OED too. "2003 Toronto Sun (Nexis) 30 Sept. (Sports section) 65 An institutional arrogance and pridefulness permeates every element of the Maple Leafs operation."

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