Short shot #10: one of the oldest countries

From American Public Media’s Morning Marketplace this morning:

Japan is one of the most indebted countries in the world, and it’s also one of the oldest.

The adjective indebted is unremarkable (NOAD2: “owing money: heavily indebted countries“), but oldest is at first puzzling, until the following context makes it clear that old here means (roughly) ‘having (many) old inhabitants’. Unsurprisingly, neither old nor oldest is in the OED online in this sense.

The usage here is as a non-predicating adjective (see discussion of contagious country and indigenous nudity, with links to earlier postings, here), so many of which require background knowledge, plenty of context, and practical reasoning to interpret. Without these, “one of the oldest countries” would be understood to refer to countries that have been in existence for the longest time.

4 Responses to “Short shot #10: one of the oldest countries”

  1. danny bloom Says:

    Yes, that sentence was poorly written. Illiterate, almost. I will bet that sentence was written by someone under 30.

  2. arnoldzwicky Says:

    To Danny Bloom: why this gratuitous slamming of the young? It smells like simple prejudice to me. You aren’t alone in this respect, of course — there’s a huge literature blaming everything that’s bad in language, or perceived as bad, on the young — but that doesn’t make it any less offensive.

  3. The Ridger Says:

    Actually, of course, that’s a very common use of “oldest”. Regardless of the writer’s age, they didn’t coin it.

  4. Danny BLoom Says:

    Arnold, you asked: “To Danny Bloom: why this gratuitous slamming of the young? It smells like simple prejudice to me. You aren’t alone in this respect, of course — there’s a huge literature blaming everything that’s bad in language, or perceived as bad, on the young — but that doesn’t make it any less offensive.”

    I hereby apologize. I didn’t intend that so sound as bad or mean as I did. I was young once. I am still young. I love young people. They are the future. If my comment sounded gratuitous slamming of the young, then I apologize. The only way I can explain it is that maybe I am just an old fart who should be more careful with how he gratuitously slams people under 30 who are functionally illiterate, not because they are under 30, but because they never learned to write or speak properly due to the decling US education system. But i know nada. I am just an old fart. Ignore me from now on. SMILE.

    And hope you’re intestinal flu and has flown the coupe! i got it last week too. OUCH

    danny, old fart at 60
    see my picture at age 10 when I was YOUNG FART in 1959 at link:

Leave a Reply to The Ridger Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: