Use words right, then you'll be an author

The dust-up over Google’s efforts to scan and digitize every book ever printed reminds me of the 1970s Robert Klein comedy routine on the LP “Mind over Matter”. It was called “The Final Record Offer,” a parody of those late-night commercials offering compilations of hit music, or less-than-hit music, which offered “Every record ever recorded.”

But today’s Wall Street Journal article (Registration required) about this controversy includes indignant comments by Michael Gorman, president of the American Library Association, and Dean of Library Services at the Henry Madden Library, California State University, Fresno, who the Journal quoted as follows:

FAIR USE EXCERPT FROM Wall Street Journal:

Further, he noted that as a published author, he opposes Google’s intention to build an enormous database that includes copyrighted texts. “It’s a flaunting of my intellectual property rights,” he said. [Emphasis added.]

Mr. Gorman, please note that “flaunting” means (according to Yahoo!’s dictionary) “To exhibit ostentatiously or shamelessly: flaunts his knowledge.”

Yahoo! goes on to note, as I would have:

To flout is “to show contempt for”: She flouted the proprieties. For some time now flaunt has been used in the sense “to show contempt for,” even by educated users of English. This usage is still widely seen as erroneous and is best avoided.

Mr. Gorman is flaunting his understanding of copyright law; Google has not yet been found by a court to be flouting the law, but Google may be flouting Mr. Gorman’s understanding of it.

But just to be clear, before we create a noun to accomodate each of these, please remember that a flautist is not one who flouts; it is one who plays a flute.

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