Discussion Forum

Please consider registering
guest

Log In Register

Register | Lost password?
Advanced Search

— Forum Scope —

  

— Match —

   

— Forum Options —

   

Minimum search word length is 4 characters - maximum search word length is 84 characters

Topic RSS
"thief" versus "stealer"
Topic Rating: 0 (0 votes) 
2013/02/06
6:11am
asusena Armenia
Member
Forum Posts: 66
Member Since:
2012/07/01
Offline

The word “thief” can be found and is fixed in English dictionaries, but “stealer” is not.

Katamba and Stonham write:

[…..] Usually perfect synonyms are avoided. Thus, it may be because thief already exists that suffixing the otherwise very productive agentive suffix -er to the verb steal in order to form *stealer is blocked.

[F.Katamba, J.Stonham, Morphology, 2006:75]

 

At first blush, it can be inferred that stealer is both a non-existing and impossible word.  However, searching Corpus of Contemporary American English, I found a number of sentences where the word “stealer” not “thief” was used.  It comes to prove that “stealer” is, nonetheless,  a  possible word.

Why does it not make its way into English dictionaries then? Why not fill the shoes of thief?  

 

2013/02/06
7:09am
Glenn
Admin
Forum Posts: 1618
Member Since:
2009/03/03
Offline

It does make it. And it has made it for two centuries.
Collins
Merriam-Webster
Compact Oxford English
Webster’s 1828 ed.

[edit: added the following] It looks like Katamba and Stonham are over-simplifying quite a bit. I would check their assertions going forward. And you had very good instincts to check them up on this. Clearly they missed something, but you didn’t.

2013/02/06
7:19am
Dick
Fort Worth, TX
Member
Forum Posts: 398
Member Since:
2010/10/19
Offline

After reading your post I looked at several online dictionaries and every one had “stealer” and defined it.   Most included “thief” as a synonym. So I don’t agree with your first sentence that “stealer” is not fixed in English dictionaries. I agree with Katamba and Stonham that “stealer” is used less but I think that examples of this are readily found. There are many words with synonyms that are used less frequently. Maybe “stealer” is used less because it is less pejorative at times when a thief should be spoken of very negatively.

2013/02/06
10:01am
New River, AZ, USA
Member
Forum Posts: 792
Member Since:
2010/05/18
Offline

I tend to agree with both Glenn and Dick. “Thief” gets 400 million hits on Google, “stealer” a mere 8 million. And “stealer” just sounds awkward (though admittedly less disparaging) compared to “thief.” It kinda reminds me of when G.W Bush declared himself “the decider.” Perfectly legitimate word, but just sounds unpolished.

Also, “stealer” is a homophone of “steeler,” and so when spoken could lead to confusion about meaning.

 

2013/02/06
11:03am
Glenn
Admin
Forum Posts: 1618
Member Since:
2009/03/03
Offline
5
0

I agree with Dick that stealer is less pejorative. And I agree with Heimhenge that the word stealer sounds awkward in isolation.
You thief!
You stealer!

But it doesn’t sound awkward to me when modified as in the following examples. To me stealer focuses a little more attention to the act of stealing, as opposed to thief, which focuses more attention on the condition or state of the person

Don’t be a french-fry stealer!
Don’t be a french-fry thief!

We have a pencil stealer in our office.
We have a pencil thief in our office.

Is anyone else thinking of Dora, the Explorer? “Swiper, no swiping! Swiper, no swiping! Swiper, no swiping!”

2013/02/06
1:24pm
Admin
Forum Posts: 653
Member Since:
2007/08/23
Offline
6
0

Stealer might be prefered in one instance: baseball. “Lou Brock was a great base stealer” was probably used more often than, “Lou Brock was a great base thief.”

(I know, the sentences date me :-).

2013/02/06
3:31pm
tromboniator
Alaska
Member
Forum Posts: 400
Member Since:
2009/08/18
Offline
7
0

“We all fell in love with her. She was a thief of hearts.”  No.

2013/02/07
4:37am
asusena Armenia
Member
Forum Posts: 66
Member Since:
2012/07/01
Offline
8
0

I got it now. Thanks a lot.

Forum Timezone: America/Los_Angeles

Most Users Ever Online: 1147

Currently Online:
26 Guest(s)

Currently Browsing this Page:
1 Guest(s)

Top Posters:

Heimhenge: 792

Bob Bridges: 675

Ron Draney: 633

Robert: 439

RobertB: 423

tromboniator: 400

Dick: 398

samaphore: 312

deaconB: 297

dilettante: 287

Member Stats:

Guest Posters: 608

Members: 2991

Moderators: 1

Admins: 5

Forum Stats:

Groups: 1

Forums: 1

Topics: 3173

Posts: 16816

Newest Members: Nancy, aerushing, Patzer, brienne77, McInbass, dsouthern36, tjintheville, jamiecordon, Uffda, LisaS

Administrators: Martha Barnette: 820, Grant Barrett: 1426, EmmettRedd: 653, Glenn: 1618, timfelten: 0