Chad Perrin wrote:
>>
> There was an early differentiation in how the spellings tended to be
> used.  It was not necessarily a conscious delineation, and there was
> almost certainly a brief period when they were almost interchangeable,

I don't think the period was brief; I think it was quite long.

> but at the same time that would have likely coincided with a period when
> both spellings were associated with both meanings about equally, and your
> social and professional status would have signified which meaning you
> most often encountered.  In other words, the point at which "demon"
> became as distinctly specific to a negative connotation would be the
> point at which "daemon" ceased being generally interchangeable with
> "demon".

Tautological almost. But I'm saying that there was a divergence in
meaning, then later (not causally) a divergence in spelling. The
fact that it's not causal is what bothers me -- it makes the attachment
of a meaning to a spelling *especially* arbitrary.

> Keep in mind that preceding paragraph contains a bit more personal
> speculation than previous statements I've made about the subject.  I
> haven't really investigated the etymology of "demon" and "daemon"
> thoroughly . . . but I'm fairly confident in the above speculations.
> Feel free to dismiss them as speculations.

Likewise, I'm only saying what I believe to be true.

> It's true that the distinction between the meanings of "daemon" and
> "demon" are not quite as clear-cut as those between "camber" and
> "chamber", for instance, but the point of the discussion of the
> differences in usage was related to whether or not "daemon" suffers the
> same sort of Christian cultural baggage as "demon" and "god", as terms to
> use for applying as names to software.  For those purposes, the usage
> distinctions are quite thoroughly sufficient.  The denotative differences
> in meanings and usages are pretty clear.

But "daemon" certainly does have the same baggage as "demon" to people
who are knowledgeable enough. (The rest say "daymun" anyway.)

The word "daemon" has been used for centuries in and out of Christian
circles, sometimes referring to evil spirits, sometimes not.

Likewise the word "demon" has been used for centuries in and out of
Christian circles, sometimes referring to evil spirits, sometimes not.

I think the (false) distinction between them is a modernism, I would
guess far less than a century old, and an incredibly arbitrary and
unnecessary modernism.

> They didn't change *because of* a change in semantics, per se, but rather
> their deviation from each other was *concurrent with* a change in
> semantics.

No, I don't believe it was. That is my point. I think. Or one of them
maybe.  :)

I think it's simply a matter of a word having different senses, just as
a "check" can be a pencil mark, a piece of paper, the bringing of
something to a sudden stop, an action in chess, and so on.

A "demon" or "daemon" strictly speaking is not necessarily evil nor even
part of Christian mythos, just as a "check" in a chess game cannot be
taken to the bank. (We could choose always to spell the latter as
"cheque" -- but I would not support that! "Check" and "cheque" are
synonyms just as "demon" and "daemon" are.)

>> The "radical descriptivist" on the other hand is like a doctor who is
>> so obsessed with categorizing and studying a cancerous growth that he
>> fails to consider it pathological and lets the patient die.
> 
> . . . and that's basically the problem I have with the assertion that
> "demon" and "daemon" are culturally interchangeable.  They aren't, even
> if some small number of people who are familiar with both terms actually
> treat them as interchangeable.

Funny, I think we're using the same argument to disagree.

To say, "Well, this is what people actually think" I call descriptivist.
To say, "This is what the words actually mean" I call prescriptivist.
And as I said, I lean toward the latter.

The terms actually are semantically (perhaps not culturally)
interchangeable. The "small number" of people are correct (as is not
unusual). I am reminded of the high school teacher who was nearly fired
for using the word "niggardly" (and for anyone reading who is unaware,
that term is unrelated to race).

To use "daemon" and "demon" to mean different things may be common
usage, but I consider it an outgrowth of ignorance.(I'm not calling
you ignorant, Chad, I'm just saying I think ignorance is the origin of
this false distinction.)

>> As for me, I lean toward prescriptivism while recognizing the extreme
>> objective value of descriptivism. I just think that language change
>> should occur slowly and with caution, and there should be "standards"
>> that are not necessarily totally based on the vote of every wagging
>> tongue.
> 
> Again . . . that's part of my reason for differentiating between "demon"
> and "daemon".  If we don't, we run the risk of the meaning in usage that
> we (who know the difference) currently assign to "daemon" withering away
> entirely, leaving sort of a hole in the language, while increasing the
> potential for sloppiness in language by turning "daemon" into nothing
> more than a variant spelling.

Fascinating. I say it is and always has been nothing more than a variant
spelling, regardless of how many meanings the word may have (or how some
people may tend to associate a certain meaning with a certain spelling).

In any case, no flames intended. A great pleasure to hold this
discussion with you. I don't think our opinions are reconcilable, but
I think I see your point.

At any rate, this is way off-topic.


Cheers,
Hal