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Dispositive
A rare and rarefied word (indeed, by google Ngram)
Topic Rating: 0 (0 votes) 
2014/04/23
11:48pm
RobertB
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'Dispositive' probably doesn't mean 'negative' in this sentence:

…affirmative action in (college) admissions was not unconstitutional, as long as race was not given a dispositive role in individual decisions.

What's the point? Only that if you are in a position to use or hear this word a lot, it's probably a sign that you are in rarefied company or at the receiving end of some whirlwinds of many sources of headaches.

2014/04/24
3:00am
deaconB
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RobertB said
'Dispositive' probably doesn't mean 'negative' in this sentence:

…affirmative action in (college) admissions was not unconstitutional, as long as race was not given a dispositive role in individual decisions. 

Does it ever mean "negative"?  The root word is "position". not "positive".  Ramdom House defines it as involving or affecting disposition or settlement: a dispositive clue in a case of embezzlement.

But if you don't allow a factor to influence individual decisions, your "affirmative action" isn't going to be very affirmative, is it?

Many organizations develop their own argot, partly based on the industry, and further modified by the organizational culture.  I remember a weekend where I rented every Monty Python movie and watched them all so I wouldn't respond with a blank stare every time a coworker said something.

2014/04/24
3:22am
RobertB
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Wow, I totally failed to notice the word 'affirmative.'   Totally missed that angle.

2014/04/24
4:07pm
Bob Bridges
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On the rare occasion I use the word myself, I use it to mean that its referent "disposes" of the question.  A dispositive clue is one that settles one's guilt or innocence.  If race is given a dispositive role, then race is a (or the) determining factor in a decision.

I think I first heard that word in the writings of William F Buckley—and now that I remember that, your quotation, RobertB, looks mightily familiar.  Somewhere in a tall stack of books on my bedstand is an old (old, old) copy of Four Reforms by WFB, that I started rereading a while ago before being distracted by something new.  Might I find that exact sentence there?

2014/04/24
6:32pm
RobertB
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I am impressed by anyone for using it at all.  Still have your sentences?

The sentence at top is from a current Atlantic article-- their own phrasing for the Supreme Court's 2003 ruling on U of Michigan's admission policy.

Checking Ngram again, maybe 'dispositive'  is not such a rare usage after all, beating 'material facts' and 'material witness'--  the slope perhaps telltale of our increasingly litigation-conscious life.

2014/04/25
3:35am
deaconB
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RobertB said
Checking Ngram again, maybe 'dispositive'  is not such a rare usage after all, beating 'material facts' and 'material witness'--  the slope perhaps telltale of our increasingly litigation-conscious life.

I recall that I was about 30 before I realized that lawyers had their own definition for "material", dissimilar to the definitions used by physicists and seamstresses.  I used to hear "material witness" and think of course, they only lock up material witnesses; they don't have any cells that con restrain ghosts.

2014/04/25
11:04am
Bob Bridges
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Accountants use "material" the same way as lawyers.  We say "a material omission" to mean one that's significant, that matters.  Whether we capitalize expenditures, or merely expense them, depends on whether the expenditure is "material"—and that depends on how big a company you're accounting for.  A small company will buy a printer, list it as a capital asset and start depreciating it.  But back in school I remember one of my professors telling us that some large corporation, I forget which one, bought a few thousand cars every year and rotated them out a few years later; they listed it as an expense every year, because it simply wasn't worth treating that many cars as a capital asset.

(I got my degree in accounting, but I discovered computers while I was getting that degree and once I graduated I went straight into computers for a living.  So I probably shouldn't say "we" when talking about accountants.  It's a little surprising how natural it felt to put it that way, though.  I guess the attitude remains.)

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