Data points: back-formation 11/28/10

In the Pope and prostitute news (some Language Log discussion here), occurrences of the simple back-formed verb contracept (based on contraception/contraceptive) unearthed by Paul Frank and discussed on ADS-L:

“As Sacred Heart Major Seminary professor Janet Smith put it in The Catholic World Report, ‘We must note that what is intrinsically wrong in a homosexual sexual act in which a condom is used is not the moral wrong of contraception but the homosexual act itself. In the case of homosexual sexual activity, a condom does not act as a contraceptive; it is not possible for homosexuals to contracept since their sexual activity has no procreative power that can be thwarted.’ There’s a logic here, but it’s the loopy follow-the-dots logic that led an Egyptian imam to declare that a woman can work in the same office as men who are not her relatives, as long as she breastfeeds them first.” (The Nation, December 13, 2010)

“But some theologians argue that the condom was not being used to contracept but rather to lower the risk of spreading AIDS.” (Philadelphia Enquirer, November 28, 2010)

Frank noted that contracept isn’t in the OED (it isn’t in NOAD2 or AHD4 either); that he found 6,040 raw ghits; and that One Look Dictionary says that it’s in the Random House Dictionary. David Barnhart found over 100 articles with contracepted in the Nexis database.

Larry Horn added the more complex back-formation contraceive (with a reconstructed stem -ceive), for which Barnhart found about 10 Nexis hits.

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