On Jul 19, 2007, at 8:04 PM, Hal Fulton wrote:

> 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
>
>
>
The spelling variant is the most plausible. English historically was  
extremely late at standardizing any spellings whatsoever.