First it was plagiarism, now it’s “plagiaphrase.” Thanks to Geoffrey K. Pullum’s “Plagiarism and Coincidence” over at Language Log today, I came across this interesting article by Joseph Bottom in the Weekly Standard. You’ve probably already heard the rumblings via newscasts but once more we have reports of another highly regarded author, this time it’s constitutional lawyer LaurenceTribe, succumbing to lapses of memory regarding the origin of his words. One interesting note in the article is the number of Harvard-related authors suffering from this apparent plague upon writers, another is the detailing of Tribe’s apparent sympathy and defense of those who have participated in this “phenomenon of some significance”–whatever that means.
Why is this happening? Why are so many cases being brought forward? Is this really a new disease afflicting the tortured writer community or has this been going on for a long time? Do non-writers even find this a problem? I don’t know. But these are questions that continue to plague me.