LotR (was Re: reviews (but not of MC))

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Fri Dec 12 21:02:21 EST 2003

Elise wrote:

>I seem
>to recall seeing it expressed as 'auctorial' intent in the long-ago before
>all my critical theory books were destroyed in a **Flood.  Did my encounter
>with the word 'auctorial' take place in a liminal zone?

It has been spelt "auctorial", from the latin word "auctor", as well as
"authorial" -- the 1933 S.O.D. has "auctor: obsolete form of -> author",
and under "author" includes "authorial" with the alternative spelling
"autorial".  ("Auctor" also means a vendor, from Roman law, but I doubt
that's relevant.)  By the time the 1993 edition of the S.O.D. rolls round,
the word "auctor" has vanished, but "auctorial: of or pertaining to an
author" is in there as a word in its own right.

I suspect that what went on was that "authorial" was in common usage and
had a meaning ordinary people understood, so in order to muddy the waters a
bit^W^W^W^W^W to be quite clear about its meaning something other than the
usual, someone who had decided to allocate a specialist meaning of his or
her own devising to the word "authorial" spelt it "auctorial" and used that
instead.  I further suspect that this was then assumed by others to be from
the French instead of being an obsolete English word derived directly from
the Latin, and people pronounced it "autorial", thereby confusing
*everyone* including themselves and the people who write the dictionaries,
and a good thing too.  After a bit nobody will have any idea which of the
three available words means what, and we will be a bit closer to the
enviable condition in which meaning is obsolete and all interpretation of
any word is equally valid.  This will either save or cause a lot of
trouble, nobody can be sure which until we have tried it.


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