Sunday 30 July 2006

A protagonist is a proponent in my book

All comments are still very welcome

And suddenly, a blog written sometime ago gets read and a comment is left pertaining to the subject matter, at other times, some smart chap and I like smart people challenge the ideas, the context, the content and even the usage in grammar of words.

I welcome all this because, I learn by taking on new knowledge or help the contributor see another perspective of my views.

Whilst in some ways, I am a sort of purist – spitting it out with self-loathing – I am exercised by having to engage with people of my ilk. Should I then be a protagonist or proponent of the rightful usage of expression and words in English?

Telling me something new

You left a comment on my blog regarding my use of protagonist in the write-up

You use the term 'peado-protagonists' as though a protagonist meant the supporter or champion of some idea. In fact 'protagonist' is not the antonym of 'antagonist'. The root is not the Latin 'pro', but the Greek 'protos' meaning 'first'. So the protagonist is the main character, and although modern usage seems to allow a pluarality of protagonists, the meaning of 'principle characters' is maintained, whatever they are 'for'

Get the word book

Rather than dispute your views, I simply took this from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary and found that I have rightfully adopted usage in relation to the second meaning which infers the supporter of a cause.

Furthermore, Wikipedia suggests that in the 20th Century protagonist is commonly used in place of proponent, in line with your comments where a better synonym might be advocate or champion.

Then my Collins Concise Dictionary ISBN 000470777X (Out of Stock) has this to say.

The use of protagonist as the definition 2 (a supporter) is regarded as unacceptable by some people on the grounds that the word derives from the Greek pr├Átos first, higher ranking, not from Latin pro in favour of.

While the second sense (a supporter) has undoubtedly developed as a result of confusion over the etymology it is now well established in English; careful writers and speakers may, however, prefer to avoid this use and employ an alternative word such as proponent, champion, or advocate.

In either of its uses, the word has a sense of chief and so does not need to be qualified by this or any similar adjective: a protagonist of the movement not a leading protagonist of the movement.

Language leaving purists behind

The American Heritage Dictionary says this

Nevertheless, the word has been used in the plural to mean “important actors” or “principal characters” since at least 1671 when John Dryden wrote “Tis charg'd upon me that I make debauch'd persons … my protagonists, or the chief persons of the drama.” Some writers may prefer to confine their use of protagonist to refer to a single actor or chief participant, but it is pointless to insist that the broader use is wrong.

Trying to be kind

I have every respect for purists and welcome their contribution to keeping the use of language at a standard of unimpeachable quality; however, in doing so, you failed to exercise the latitude of an erudite that should do requisite research before debunking ideas or usage.

Thanks, for your comment, the knowledge and your time.

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