Biased and Prejudiced Against

From Daily Writing Tips:

In a recent post about confusion between the words precedent and precedence, a reader commented on a similar confusion between noun-adjective distinctions like bias/biased and prejudice/prejudiced. Thereby hangs this post.

bias (noun): Tendency to favor or dislike a person or thing, especially as a result of a preconceived opinion; partiality, prejudice.

biased (adjective): Influenced by preconceived opinion, favoritism, or prejudice; demonstrating, reflecting, or characterized by lack of impartiality.

Searching for nonstandard usage, I found it in sources I’d expect to set a better example.

Official transcript of a court appeal in the state of Washington:

I made numerous requests to Prosecutor without success and petitioned the Court to make the Prosecutor comply with the rules of Discovery. The Judge however would not as he was bias against me and did all in his power to deny me due process and fairness.

Journalism graduate commenting on a professor he had while at the university:

[The professor] was bias against me because he believed I offended him on a project I did for class.

A third example comes from the Quizlet site. Quizlet (valued at $1B) is an app that offers study materials. Who creates the materials is not clear. I have found them to be a rich source of misspellings and misused words. This is from a discussion of Title VII. [Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.]

If he was bias against older people, he wouldn’t have hire him in the first place.

Note that the word hire is also missing its ending.

prejudice (noun): Preconceived opinion not based on reason or actual experience.

prejudiced (adjective): Affected or influenced by prejudice; (unfairly) biased beforehand.

. . . .

Possible sign of the times
The fact that this error can be found in sources associated with education and official communication suggests that the nonstandard usage is gaining ground.

Just as the idioms “cut and dried” and “first come first served” have become for many speakers “cut and dry” and “first come, first serve,” the errors illustrated above could eventually gain acceptability.

Careful writers, beware.

Link to the rest at Daily Writing Tips

4 thoughts on “Biased and Prejudiced Against”

  1. The social media site GETTR has described itself as an “unbias platform”. I’ve often seen “close-minded” for “closed-minded,” and even “his trouble childhood”.

    I wonder if there may be some influence from a mainly US/British English usage difference, where US English would tend to say “a cobblestone street” instead of BrE “a cobblestoned street”. In that case, it’s arguably not an error, since cobblestone is what the street is made of and it’s comparable to “a stone wall”.

    I also wonder if it reflects a shift in spoken (US) language to drop the “d” at the end of these words? I don’t live in the US, so don’t hear enough casual US speakers to know if this is the case.

    • Your cobblestone example is not a parallel (verb participle vs noun-derived adjective). Both usages are grammatically correct, though the choice preference may be nationally divided.

      The usage in question is more a lack of education/reading exposure, that is, a lack of clarity on the use of “bias” and “prejudice” as active verbs as well as nouns. Note that this happens most often with words not in the lowest hundreds of usage. Older less literate English verbs don’t suffer from this problem, i.e., we don’t get usages like “He was anger at me”, though we do get derived forms “I was angry” and “he was angry at me” instead of “angry with me” or “angered at me”. In that case “angered” (the verb form) and its accompanying prepositions are the fading forms for illiteracy.

      There is a case to be made for the influence of street dialects, especially as a status performance, but whether they are true dialects, remnants of true dialects, nonce cant usages, or simple illiteracy is debatable. In any case, they are not the model for the consensus language, and this is as true in the UK as the US.

      The way to judge whether innovations of grammatical form (vs. new vocabulary items, cant, or divisions of dialect) are entering the consensus language is to closely observe the informal usages of the lettered classes. That’s where we can see changes happening that are not based solely on educational or dialectical issues. The emergence of the third person plural form for gender neutral singular usage is one such visible change in our own time — still considered informal, but clearly destined for eventual universality. (“If anyone comes early, give them a drink.”) The older conversion of plural 2nd person pronouns replacing singular and formal ones (no more “thee, thou, thine”) went through a similar process hundreds of years ago. It’s delightful to see such another significant change happening in one’s lifetime — they’re usually less swift than that.

  2. As Joe Sobran once observed, in a hundred years we’ve gone from teaching Latin in high school to teaching remedial English in college. Social media have boosted and reinforced many bad habits, from the substitution of feelings for facts to bad grammar. So many seem to think a plural requires an apostrophe that it will probably become standard practice.

  3. On the one hand, getting words right matters to good writing. Almost everyone’s favorite “complement | compliment” is an easy example; so, too, and more on point to my objection to the OP, is “indorse | endorse”.

    But the OP’s examples are inapt and, in one instance, both insulting and based on invalid data. The one that really stands out is the “Official transcript of a court appeal in the state of Washington,” which has multiple flaws:

    (1) It states that it’s a transcript, but never acknowledges the flaws in transcripts. And, in particular, transcripts in open court, because there’s no opportunity to go back and correct something misheard — indeed, that’s against the rules of court transcriptions. Given the typical accoustics of a courtroom (and the lack of practice offered to prisoners representing themselves prior to any hearing), it’s more than possible that the terminal phoneme of “biased” just didn’t make its way to the reporter’s ear… or that the reporter mistranscribed (which is especially common with non-Basic-English words… and with non-localized accents or just plain mispronunciations).

    (2) Really? Citing the at least somewhat nervous oral presentation, in a setting that he/she/they likely hasn’t been in before, of a pro se prisoner, concerning writing style? Do we even know that this is the prisoner’s native language? (There’s a nontrivial population of native Russian speakers in Washington state prisons who might be appealing their convictions, and I can definitely see possibilities for error in a transcript there. And it’s even worse for other languages that structurally do not modify stems the same way English does… inconsistently.)

    Interesting points. Get actually valid supporting evidence.

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