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From "Ash" <>
Subject -er or -or: offshoot from [digester] variable expansion
Date Wed, 03 Dec 2003 23:43:42 GMT
> >
> > We haven't really talked about the terminology for this feature.
> > I think it is open for discussion. Good names help in so many ways.
> >
> > Yep, all your examples are right to have "-or".
> > And also function-->functor.
> >
> > I'm convinced. Substitutor it is (unless the decision is made
> > to rename
> > it completely :-)
> > English is strange, isn't it? Substitutor but Expander and Resolver.
> > How consistent (not)!
> >

I was thinking this topic of agent terms (-er -or) was not too relevant to
this list, or to any list full of techies.

But on second thought, I realize that it would be useful to have an idea of
the naming patterns, since we are all coining so many terms every other day.
Further, I have often winced at misnaming found in the technical terminology
(implementors and adaptors and the like.) I am thus tempted to include here
an old article in which I explained then whens and whys of -er and -or.

It also has an answer for Simon's musing (on consistency.)


Here goes..

-er v/s -or.

Which comes when? What is the pattern?

I attempt to answer the questions.

-er is the native (Old) English and common Germanic (Dutch,
German, etc) suffix for agent (the doer, the nomen agentis).
-or is the originally the Latin suffix for the same function.

-or is mostly found in latinate words, i.e., words derived from
Latin, either as emprunt or constructed in English using Latin
elements (roots, prefixes and suffixes.)

actor, doctor, investigator, professor, etc.

-er is the general suffix for unlatinate words (anything not part
of the above definition.)
Sometimes, you also find -ar, -eur, and -eer.

killer, seller, buyer, Englander, trainer, entertainer,
experiencer, etc.

There are however some historical "aberrations" to this pattern.

wrongly -or: advisor, ... I can't recall the examples now.
wrongly -er: motor, but promoter (motion, promotion)

The rule for making an -or agent-noun is this:

Get the -ion form. Remove -ion and add -or.

seduce: seduction -> seductor
destroy: destruction -> destructor (used in programming
translate: translation -> translator

When there is no acceptable -ion form, use the -er formation.
Sometimes, the -er form is preferred, usually when the -ion form
is longer, or less attractive (English likes to shorten the words it will
you see.)

adapt: adaptation -> adapter (there is also the exceptional
'adaptor', which is incongruous with the pattern)
implement: implementation -> implementer (-or here is incorrect)
revolve: revolution -> revolver   (rather than revolutor)
produce: production -> producer   (rather than productor)
consume: consumption -> consumer  (rather than consumptor, cf. Latin emptor)

Ashwin S

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