Flaunting and flouting

Q: While looking into the common but erroneous substitution of “flaunt” for “flaut,” I was flabbergasted to find no entry for “flaut” in any of the dictionaries OneLook.com aggregates. Did I slide into an alternate universe where this word doesn’t exist, or am I simply deranged? PS: To prevent Google Mail from flagging “flaut’ as an error, I had to add it to my email dictionary.

A: You’re right that many people use “flaunt” to mean “flout” (the correct spelling of the word you’re looking for). In fact, a couple of standard dictionaries now accept the usage, though all the rest stick to the traditional view of the two words.

Traditionally, the verb “flaunt” means to show off something ostentatiously or to act in an ostentatious way, while the verb “flout” means to openly or contemptuously disregard something.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.), which takes the traditional view, says in a usage note: “For some time now flaunt has been used in the sense ‘to show contempt for,’ even by educated users of English. But this usage is still widely seen as erroneous.”

“In our 2009 survey,” the dictionary adds, “73 percent of the Usage Panel rejected it in the sentence This is just another example of an executive flaunting the rules for personal gain.”

However, the online Merriam-Webster Unabridged and Merriam-Webster Dictionary accept without comment (that is, as standard English) the use of “flaunt” to mean “to treat contemptuously: flout.”

The subscription-based Unabridged gives the example “flaunt army regulations,” while the free dictionary cites this comment by the poet and critic Louis Untermeyer: “flaunted the rules.”

We use “flaunt” and “flout” in the traditional way, and that’s what Woe Is I, Pat’s grammar and usage guide, recommends: “To flout is to defy or ignore. To flaunt is to show off. When Bruce ran that stop sign, he was flouting the law and flaunting his new Harley.”

Other usage guides agree. In Fowler’s Modern English Usage (rev. 3rd ed.), for example, R. W. Burchfield writes that “flaunt is often wrongly used for flout,” a usage that “has been particularly prevalent since the 1940s.”

And in Garner’s Modern English Usage (4th ed.), Bryan A. Garner says: “Confusion about these terms is so distressingly common that some dictionaries have thrown in the towel and now treat flaunt as a synonym of flout. But the words are best kept separate.”

The less traditional Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage offers a justification for using “flaunt” to mean “flout,” but ultimately recommends avoiding the usage:

“Both words are used to describe open, unashamed behavior, and both typically suggest disapproval of such behavior. … Add to this similarity of use the obvious similarity of the words themselves, and you have a situation ripe for confusion.

“It is an oversimplification, however, to say that the use of flaunt to mean ‘to treat with contemptuous disregard’ is merely the result of confusion … those who now use it do so not because they are confused—they do so because they have heard and seen it so often that its use seems natural and idiomatic. They use it, in other words, because they are familiar with it as an established sense of flaunt.

“No one can deny that this sense of flaunt is now alive and well, despite its lowly origins.

“Nevertheless, the notoriety of flaunt used for flout is so great and the belief that it is simply an error so deep-seated and persistent, that we think you well-advised to avoid it, at least when writing for publication.”

As for the etymology, both verbs showed up in the 1500s, “flout” first and “flaunt” a decade later.

The Oxford English Dictionary says “flout,” meaning to mock or express contempt for someone or something, may have begun life as a dialectal form of floute, Middle English for “to play the flute.” The OED notes “a similar development of sense in Dutch fluiten to play the flute, to mock, deride.”

The first citation for “flout” in the dictionary is from Ralph Robinson’s 1551 translation of Utopia, a Latin work of fiction by Thomas More: “In moste spiteful maner mockynge … and flowtynge them.”

The Chambers Dictionary of Etymology says “flaunt” is of unknown origin, though it cites several theories, including a suggestion that it may be a coined word formed from blending terms like “flounce” and “vaunt.”

The first OED citation for “flaunt” (“to walk or move about so as to display one’s finery”) is from a 1566 translation by the English clergyman Thomas Drant of the Roman poet Horace’s satires: “In suits of silkes to flaunte.”

Before ending, we should note that “flout” is occasionally used to mean “flaunt.” But as Merriam-Webster’s Usage notes, “it is extremely uncommon and can only be regarded as a genuine error.”

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from Grammarphobia https://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2017/06/flaunt-flout.html

Lesson 206 – Parts of the Sentence – Verbals

A verbal is a verb form used as some other part of speech. There are three kinds of verbals: gerunds, participles and infinitives.
A gerund always ends in ing and is used as a noun. Example: Eatingis fun.
A participle is used as an adjective and ends various ways. A present participle always ends with ing as does the gerund, but remember that it is an adjective. A past participle ends with ed, n, or irregularly. Examples: played, broken, brought, sung, seeing, having seen, being seen, seen, having been seen.
An infinitive is to plus a verb form. It can be a noun, an adjective, or an adverb. Examples: to be, to see, to be seen, to be eaten.
Instructions: Find the verbals in the following sentences.
1. I can’t understand Will’s failing in college.
2. Many trees stood bordering the south entrance to the house.
3. I will have to consult your parents.
4. His searching glance terrified the hostages.
5. You should buy a tie to match your suit.
–For answers scroll down.

Answers:
1. failing
2. bordering
3. to consult
4. searching
5. to match

For your convenience, all of our lessons are available on our website in our lesson archive at http://www.dailygrammar.com/archive.html. Our lessons are also available to purchase in an eBook and a Workbook format.
from Daily Grammar Lessons Blog http://dailygrammarlessons.blogspot.com/2017/06/lesson-206-parts-of-sentence-verbals.html

Quiz for Lessons 201-205 – Parts of the Sentence – Conjunctions

Instructions: As a review of all the parts of the sentence, in the following sentences find the conjunctions and tell whether they are co-ordinate or correlative conjunctions, and then tell how each of the other words are used.
1. The consultant gave Mother and Dad some helpful hints.
2. Dot was an old but reliable pinto horse.
3. My mother knits slowly but very surely.
4. The little girls raced down the street and into the playground.
5. Yesterday was not only hot but also really windy.
6. I have visited both the Boardwalk and Broadway.
7. Either Jenny or your sister will call about the party.
8. Then she stopped at the service station for some gas or oil.
9. The water in the Pacific Ocean was very rough and cold.
10. The injured one was neither Burt nor Bob.
–For answers scroll down.

Answers:
1. and = co-ordinate conjunction; gave =verb; consultant = subject; hints = direct object; Mother/Dad = indirect objects; the/some/helpful = adjectives
2. but = co-ordinate conjunction; was = verb; Dot = subject; horse = predicate nominative; an/old/reliable/pinto = adjectives
3. but = co-ordinate conjunction; knits = verb; mother = subject; my = adjective; slowly/very/surely = adverbs
4. and = co-ordinate conjunction; raced = verb; girls = subject; down/into = prepositions; street/playground = object of the prepositions; the/little/the/the = adjectives
5. not only/but also = correlative conjunction; was = verb; yesterday = subject; hot/windy = predicate adjectives; really = adverb
6. both/and = correlative conjunction; have visited = verb; I = subject; Boardwalk/Broadway = direct objects; the = adjectives
7. either/or = correlative conjunction; will call = verb; Jenny/sister = subject; about = preposition; party = object of the preposition; your/the = adjectives
8. or = co-ordinate conjunction; stopped = verb; she = subject; at/for = preposition; station/gas/oil = objects of the prepositions; the/service/some = adjectives; then = adverb
9. and = co-ordinate conjunction; was = verb; water = subject; rough/cold = predicate adjective; in = preposition; Pacific Ocean = object of the preposition; the/the = adjectives; very = adverb
10. neither/nor = correlative conjunction; was = verb; one = subject; Burt/Bob = predicate nominative; the/injured = adjectives

For your convenience, all of our lessons are available on our website in our lesson archive at http://www.dailygrammar.com/archive.html. Our lessons are also available to purchase in an eBook and a Workbook format.
from Daily Grammar Lessons Blog http://dailygrammarlessons.blogspot.com/2017/06/quiz-for-lessons-201-205-parts-of.html

Our slant on ‘bias’

Q: I came across a T-shirt on Amazon that shows a sewing machine and the words “never trust a seamstress, she’s likely biased.” As a sewer who sometimes cuts fabric on the bias, I’m curious about where all the biases come from.

A: English adopted “bias” in the early 1500s from Middle French (spoken from the 14th to 16th centuries), in which biais meant either oblique or obliqueness.

The Oxford English Dictionary says the French term is “of unknown origin,” and notes that a theory that it comes from bifax, classical Latin for two-faced, has been rejected by scholars “as phonetically untenable.”

“Bias” showed up first in English as a noun for an “oblique or slanting line,” the OED says, but adds that this sense now appears only in sewing, where “on the bias” refers to fabric cut or pieced “diagonally, across the texture.”

The earliest Oxford example for “bias” is from John Palsgrave’s Lesclarcissement de la Langue Francoyse (1530), a French grammar for English speakers: “Byas of an hose, bias.”

It’s unclear whether Palsgrave is referring to hosiery with a diagonal design or to hose made from fabric cut on the bias, which allows woven cloth to stretch.

The actual expression “on the bias” didn’t show up in writing until hundreds of years later. The first Oxford example is from the Oct. 29, 1880, issue of the Melbourne Bulletin: “The clothing … may not be cut on the bias.”

However, we’ve found several earlier examples that refer to fabric pieced or cut “on the bias.” The earliest is from the January 1818 issue of the Ladies’ Monthly Museum, a British magazine:

“The petticoat is made full, and trimmed with large satin roses, placed two together on the bias, and attached by a band of crimped crape; long sleeves made rather tight, with a pointed cuff, and trimmed to correspond with the collar.”

The first example we’ve found for cutting “on the bias” is from The Scottish Gaël, an 1831 book about Celtic customs, by James Logan:

“An error in weaving would equally derange the operation of making up a jacket, which consumes a considerable quantity of cloth, being cut on the bias, and is a work of great nicety and skill.”

The OED says the noun “bias” in the sewing sense refers to “a wedge-shaped piece or gore, cut obliquely to the texture of a woven fabric.” (For readers unfamiliar with the term, “gore” refers to a triangular or tapering piece of material.)

The noun gave English the adjective “bias,” meaning slanting or oblique. The first Oxford example is from The Pathway to Knowledge,” a 1551 book on geometry by Robert Record:

“By the Bias line, I meane that lyne, whiche in any square figure dooth runne from corner to corner.”

Two decades later, the noun took on a new sense—as a term in the sport of bowls or lawn bowls.

As the OED explains, the term “bias” here refers to both the “form of the bowl imparting an oblique motion” and “the kind of impetus given to cause it to run obliquely.”

“Thus a bowl is said ‘to have a wide or narrow bias,’ ‘to run with a great’ or ‘little bias’; the player ‘gives it more’ or ‘less bias’ in throwing it,” the dictionary adds.

The first Oxford example for “bias” used in bowls is from a margin note in The Life of the 70 Archbishops of Canterbury (1570), an anonymous translation and update of a work in Latin: “As you haue sett youre bias, so runneth your bowle.”

All the modern meanings of “bias” and its offshoots are derived from the original oblique sense of the noun or from its oblique sense in lawn bowls. We won’t discuss all the senses here, just the most common ones.

The use of “bias” for a tendency, a predisposition, or a prejudice showed up in the early 1570s. The first OED citation is from Ane Detectioun of the Duinges of Marie Quene of Scottes (1571), by George Buchanan: “She commeth to her own byace, and openly sheweth hir owne naturall conditions.”

The term soon came to mean “a swaying influence” that may turn someone to a particular course. This example is from Tragicall Tales” (1587), the English poet George Turberville’s translations of Italian stories by Giovanni Boccaccio and Matteo Bandello: “That to the end he might the maid Unto his bias bring.”

In the mid-1600s, the adjective “biased” took on the sense of “Influenced; inclined in some direction; unduly or unfairly influenced; prejudiced,” according to the OED. (The adjective “biased” comes from the verb “bias.” Both had shown up earlier in the 1600s as terms in lawn bowls.)

The first Oxford citation for “biased” used in the “influenced” or “prejudiced” sense is from Trinarchodia (1646), a poem about Richard II by the Yorkshire writer George Daniel: “How byased all humane Actions are!”

In the early 20th century, “bias” became a term in statistics for a “systematic distortion of an expected statistical result due to a factor not allowed for in its derivation” and “a tendency to produce such distortion,” according to the dictionary.

The first OED example is from the July 1900 issue of the monthly London, Edinburgh, and Dublin Philosophical Magazine: “The results show a bias from the theoretical results, 5 and 6 points occurring more frequently than they should do.”

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from Grammarphobia https://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2017/06/bias.html

Trepid, trepidant, trepidatious

Q: My dictionary has the word “trepidant,” but no definition or example. I believe it means timid, but I’d like to see how it’s used in a sentence before I use it myself.

A: We’ve found the adjective “trepidant” in several standard dictionaries, including Merriam-Webster Unabridged, which defines it as “timid, trembling.” But it’s rarely used, which explains why you’ve had trouble finding an example.

M-W Unabridged also has two related adjectives: “trepidatious,” which is defined as “feeling trepidation: apprehensive nervous,” and “trepid,” defined as “timorous, trembling.”

All three adjectives, as well as the noun “trepidation” and the obsolete verb “trepidate,” are ultimately derived from trepidāre, classical Latin for to hurry, bustle, be agitated, or be alarmed.

“Trepidation” is the oldest of the English words and the most common today. When it showed up in the early 1600s, “trepidation” referred to a vibrating, oscillating, or rocking movement.

The first example in the Oxford English Dictionary is from Of the Proficience and Advancement of Learning, a 1605 book by the philosopher and scientist Francis Bacon:

“Massiue bodies … haue certaine trepidations and wauerings before they fixe and settle.”

However, the noun soon took on the modern sense of “tremulous agitation; confused hurry or alarm; confusion; flurry; perturbation,” according to the OED.

The dictionary’s first citation for the new sense is from another work by Bacon, a 1625 collection of his essays: “There vseth to be more trepidation in Court, vpon the first Breaking out of Troubles, then were fit.”

The now obsolete verb “trepidate” showed up around the same time, in The English Dictionarie: Or, an Interpreter of Hard English Words (1623), by Henry Cockeram: “Trepidate, to tremble for feare.”

The OED says the rare adjective “trepid” showed up in the mid-1600s, meaning “trembling; agitated; fearful.”

The first of three examples is from Sacred Principles, Services, and Soliloquies, a 1650 book of devotions by William Brough: “Trembling, and chilnesse, and confusion in the powers of action … a stupid, trepid, troubled motion.”

“Trepidant,” the adjective you’re asking about, showed up more than two centuries later. Oxford describes it as rare, and defines it as “trembling with fear or agitation.”

The first example is from an 1891 paper by Philip Coombs Knapp in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: “Astasia-abasia, with the report of a case of paroxysmal trepidant abasia associated with paralysis agitans.”

Here’s a slightly later OED example in plain English: “In either party are many trepidant hopes and fears” (from the July 2, 1892, issue of Black & White, a British illustrated weekly).

We’ve found an even clearer example in Notable U.S. Ambassadors Since 1775, a 1997 book by Cathal J. Nolan.

This is a description of Clifton Reginald Wharton Sr., an African-American diplomat, taking the Foreign Service exam in the 1920s:

“He scored well on the written part of the examination and, although somewhat trepidant about facing an all-white oral examination board, he sailed through their questions.”

We’ll end with “trepidatious,” the most common of the adjectives now. It showed up in the early 20th century, the OED says, and means “apprehensive, nervous; filled with trepidation.”

The dictionary’s earliest example is from The Sirdar’s OathA Tale of the Northwest Frontier (1904), by Bertram Mitford:

“Hilda looked up from the papers she had been busy with as he entered—in fact, made a guilty and trepidatious attempt at sweeping them out of sight.”

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from Grammarphobia https://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2017/06/trepid-trepidant-trepidatious.html

Ego trip: “egoist” vs. “egotist”

Q: Is the proper form “egoist” or “egotist”? Without the “t” it always sounds wrong.

A: The short answer is that you can’t go wrong with “egotist” unless you’re discussing philosophy or ethics.

Technically, “egoism” and “egotism” have different meanings, though the meanings differ from dictionary to dictionary and overlap considerably.

In fact, most people who use “egoist” (or “egoism”) actually mean “egotist” (or “egotism”), and standard dictionaries now accept that usage. However, some sticklers insist on preserving a distinction that has never been very distinct.

Oxford Dictionaries online, in its US and UK editions, defines “egotism” as the “practice of talking and thinking about oneself excessively because of an undue sense of self-importance.” It defines “egoism” as “another term for egotism,” or as an “ethical theory that treats self-interest as the foundation of morality.”

In a usage note in its UK edition, Oxford Dictionaries adds: “Strictly speaking, egoism is a term used in Ethics to mean ‘a theory that treats self-interest as the foundation of moral behaviour,’ although this sense is not dominant today; around 90 per cent of the citations for egoism in the Oxford English Corpus are for the meaning ‘excessive conceit.’ ”

Merriam-Webster Unabridged has similar definitions for the two words. But it adds that “egotism” may also mean self-centeredness and excessive pride, while “egoism” may refer to the doctrine in philosophy “that all the elements of knowledge are in the ego.”

Our own searches of the Corpus of Contemporary American English and the British National Corpus agree with the results from the Oxford English Corpus: “egoism” is now usually used to mean “egotism,” especially in the self-centered sense.

R. W. Burchfield, writing in Fowler’s Modern English Usage (rev. 3rd ed.), doesn’t quite endorse the use of “egoism” for “egotism,” but says:

“To the general educated public, at any rate those who are uninformed about the technical language of ethics and metaphysics, the net result is a residual and persistent belief that the words are more or less interchangeable.”

Burchfield notes that the “adjectives egoistic and egotistic are now under threat by the increasingly popular adjective egocentric,” which the Macmillan Dictionary defines as “behaving as if you are more important than other people, and need not care about them.”

In Garner’s Modern English Usage (4th ed.), a more conservative reference book, Bryan A. Garner insists that “egoism” is a philosophical term and that its use for “egotism” is “widely shunned.” He says the use of “egoism” to mean selfishness “is a slipshod extension.”

What do we think? Well, we use “egotism” for boastfulness, selfishness, or excessive pride. We can’t remember the last time we used “egoism” in conversation or writing, other than in discussing the word’s usage.

As for the etymology, all these terms and their offshoots are ultimately derived from ego, Latin for “I.”

The first to show up in English, “egotism” and “egotist,” were used in reference to the “obtrusive or too frequent use of the pronoun of the first person singular: hence the practice of talking about oneself or one’s doings,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

The dictionary’s earliest examples for both words are in a passage (which we’ve expanded) from an essay by Joseph Addison in the July 2, 1714, issue of the Spectator:

“The most violent egotism which I have met with in the course of my reading, is that of Cardinal Wolsey, Ego et rex meus (I and my king); as perhaps the most eminent egotist that ever appeared in the world was Montaigne, the author of the celebrated essays.”

Where did the intrusive “t” in “egotism” and “egotist” come from? “It seems probable,” the OED says, “that egotism was formed on the pattern of some older word [ending] in -otism; compare for example French idiotisme.”

In the late 1700s, the “t”-less terms “egoism” and “egoist” first appeared in English as terms in philosophy (they were later applied to a system of ethics).

In philosophy, the OED says, the words were used in reference to the “belief, on the part of an individual, that there is no proof that anything exists but his own mind,” and they were “chiefly applied to philosophical systems supposed by their adversaries logically to imply this conclusion.”

The OED parenthetically mentions a 1722 sighting of the Latin egoismo, from the title of a religious treatise by the German theologian Christoph Matthäus Pfaff: De Egoismo, Nova Philosophica Hæresi.

But in English, both “egoism” and “egoist” first showed up in Thomas Reid’s Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man (1785):

“I am left alone in that forlorn state of egoism,” and “A sect … called Egoists, who maintained that we have no evidence of the existence of anything but ourselves.”

Soon writers began using “egoism” and “egoist” to mean “egotism” and “egotist.”

For example, the OED says “egoist” means “one who talks much about himself” in this citation from a June 13, 1794, letter by William Eden, 1st Baron Auckland: “My next letter shall be less egoist.”

And the dictionary says “egoism” means “egotism” in this citation from a March 20, 1807, letter by Thomas Jefferson: “Pardon me these egoisms.”

The OED also cites an earlier Feb. 6, 1795, letter by Jefferson that uses “egoisms” to mean selfish acts: “It must be so extensive as that local egoisms may never reach its greater part.”

In the early 1800s, according to the dictionary, the term “egoism” came to be used in ethics for the “theory which regards self-interest as the foundation of morality. Also, in practical sense: Regard to one’s own interest, as the supreme guiding principle of action; systematic selfishness.”

The first Oxford example for the use of “egoism” in ethics is from an 1801 entry in The Annual Register, an annual record of world events published since the mid-19th century:

“Generous sentiment and affection in France … was lost in selfishness or according to their new word Egoism.”

However, writers continued to use “egoism” more widely to mean selfishness, self-importance, and self-centeredness throughout the 19th century, as in these examples from the dictionary:

“Hearsays, egoisms, purblind dilettantisms” (from Thomas Carlyle’s Past and Present, 1843; the OED says “egoisms” here are acts of selfishness).

“He is deprived of every shadow of a plea to impute fanaticism or any form of egoism” (from William E. Gladstone’s Church Principles, 1840).

“Note the egoism of this verse and of those preceding it” (from Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s The Treasury of David, 1871).

Interestingly, H. W. Fowler, in the first edition of A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (1926), says, “Egoism is showing signs of ousting egotism” in popularity as a term for the “excessive use of I in speech or writing, & self-importance or self-centredness in character.”

It hasn’t happened yet, but “egoism” is still giving “egotism” a good run.

Our searches of the News on the Web corpus, which tracks online newspapers and magazines, show “egotism” ahead by about a third in popularity. Nearly all the citations for “egoism” use the term in the sense of “egotism.”

By the way, the newcomer, “egocentric,” showed up in the early 20th century as an ethnological or philosophical term, but it was soon being used popularly to mean self-centered.

We’ll end with this example from “The Gulf,” a poem by D. H. Lawrence that was  published in 1932, two years after he died: “And then the hordes of the spawn of the machine, / the hordes of the egocentric, the robots.”

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from Grammarphobia https://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2017/06/egoist-egotist.html

Our slant on ‘bias’

Q: I came across a T-shirt on Amazon that shows a sewing machine and the words “never trust a seamstress, she’s likely biased.” As a sewer who sometimes cuts fabric on the bias, I’m curious about where all the biases come from.

A: English adopted “bias” in the early 1500s from Middle French (spoken from the 14th to 16th centuries), where biais meant either oblique or obliqueness.

The Oxford English Dictionary says the French term is “of unknown origin,” and notes that a theory that it comes from bifax, classical Latin for two-faced, has been rejected by scholars “as phonetically untenable.”

“Bias” showed up first in English as a noun for an “oblique or slanting line,” the OED says, but adds that this sense now appears only in sewing, where “on the bias” refers to fabric cut or pieced “diagonally, across the texture.”

The earliest Oxford example for “bias” is from John Palsgrave’s Lesclarcissement de la Langue Francoyse (1530), a French grammar for English speakers: “Byas of an hose, bias.”

It’s unclear whether Palsgrave is referring to hosiery with a diagonal design or to hose made from fabric cut on the bias, which allows woven cloth to stretch.

The actual expression “on the bias” didn’t show up in writing until hundreds of years later. The first Oxford example is from the Oct. 29, 1880, issue of the Melbourne Bulletin: “The clothing … may not be cut on the bias.”

However, we’ve found several earlier examples that refer to fabric pieced or cut “on the bias.” The earliest is from the January 1818 issue of the Ladies’ Monthly Museum, a British magazine:

“The petticoat is made full, and trimmed with large satin roses, placed two together on the bias, and attached by a band of crimped crape; long sleeves made rather tight, with a pointed cuff, and trimmed to correspond with the collar.”

The first example we’ve found for cutting “on the bias” is from The Scottish Gaël, an 1831 book about Celtic customs, by James Logan:

“An error in weaving would equally derange the operation of making up a jacket, which consumes a considerable quantity of cloth, being cut on the bias, and is a work of great nicety and skill.”

The OED says the noun “bias” in the sewing sense refers to “a wedge-shaped piece or gore, cut obliquely to the texture of a woven fabric.” (For readers unfamiliar with the term, “gore” refers to a triangular or tapering piece of material.)

The noun gave English the adjective “bias,” meaning slanting or oblique. The first Oxford example is from The Pathway to Knowledge,” a 1551 book on geometry by Robert Record:

“By the Bias line, I meane that lyne, whiche in any square figure dooth runne from corner to corner.”

Two decades later, the noun took on a new sense—as a term in the sport of bowls or lawn bowls.

As the OED explains, the term “bias” here refers to both the “form of the bowl imparting an oblique motion” and “the kind of impetus given to cause it to run obliquely.”

“Thus a bowl is said ‘to have a wide or narrow bias,’ ‘to run with a great’ or ‘little bias’; the player ‘gives it more’ or ‘less bias’ in throwing it,” the dictionary adds.

The first Oxford example for “bias” used in bowls is from a margin note in The Life of the 70 Archbishops of Canterbury (1570), an anonymous translation and update of a work in Latin: “As you haue sett youre bias, so runneth your bowle.”

All the modern meanings of “bias” and its offshoots are derived from the original oblique sense of the noun or from its oblique sense in lawn bowls. We won’t discuss all the senses here, just the most common ones.

The use of “bias” for a tendency, a predisposition, or a prejudice showed up in the early 1570s. The first OED citation is from Ane Detectioun of the Duinges of Marie Quene of Scottes (1571), by George Buchanan: “She commeth to her own byace, and openly sheweth hir owne naturall conditions.”

The term soon came to mean “a swaying influence” that may turn someone to a particular course. This example is from Tragicall Tales” (1587), the English poet George Turberville’s translations of Italian stories by Giovanni Boccaccio and Matteo Bandello: “That to the end he might the maid Unto his bias bring.”

In the mid-1600s, the adjective “biased” took on the sense of “Influenced; inclined in some direction; unduly or unfairly influenced; prejudiced,” according to the OED. (The adjective “biased” comes from the verb “bias.” Both had shown up earlier in the 1600s as terms in lawn bowls.)

The first Oxford citation for “biased” used in the “influenced” or “prejudiced” sense is from Trinarchodia (1646), a poem about Richard II by the Yorkshire writer George Daniel: “How byassed all humane Actions are!”

In the early 20th century, “bias” became a term in statistics for a “systematic distortion of an expected statistical result due to a factor not allowed for in its derivation” and “a tendency to produce such distortion,” according to the dictionary.

The first OED example is from the July 1900 issue of the monthly London, Edinburgh, and Dublin Philosophical Magazine: “The results show a bias from the theoretical results, 5 and 6 points occurring more frequently than they should do.”

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from Grammarphobia http://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2017/06/bias.html