The word "ilk" and its abuses

John K. Taber jktaber at
Thu Aug 31 14:51:17 PDT 2000

Doug Henwood <dhenwood at> wrote:

<<<<< JKSCHW at wrote:

>Doesn't the wrong version become the right version if it is
>embedded? "Specious" meant "plausible" in Hume's English, but it
>acquired the meaning of " . . . but false: in ours. So Ilk means
>"same" in Scotland but"kind" in America. --jks

Says the American Heritage Dictionary, via Microsoft Bookshelf 98:

>ilk (îlk) noun
>Type or kind: can't trust people of that ilk. See synonyms at type.
>The same. Used following a name to indicate that the one named
>resides in an area bearing the same name: Duncan of that ilk.
>[Middle English, same, from Old English ilca.]
>Word History: When one uses ilk, as in the phrase men of his ilk,
>one is using a word with an ancient pedigree even though the sense
>of ilk, "kind or sort," is actually quite recent, having been
>recorded no earlier than the end of the 18th century. This sense
>grew out of an older use of ilk in the phrase of that ilk, meaning
>"of the same place, territorial designation, or name." This phrase
>was used chiefly in names of landed families, Guthrie of that ilk
>meaning "Guthrie of Guthrie." "Same" is the fundamental meaning of
>the word. The ancestors of ilk, Old English ilca and Middle English
>ilke, were common words, usually appearing with such words as the or
>that, but the word hardly survived the Middle Ages in those uses.

Whatever the case may be, I'm sick of the word. How I see it used is as a sneer word, as in "So-and-so the socialistic criminal, and others of that ilk." I think the right picked up the sneer use from Buckley, but the non-right misuses it too.

So, I imagine ilks, sort of like elks because of the resemblance. Lots of ilks, who ilk together. If you listen you can hear them trumpeting, which sounds like "ulk, ulk, ulk."

Such are ilks.

Anybody who figures out a better way to laugh the sneer use out of existence has my grateful blessings.

-- John K. Taber It was hot yesterday, it's hot today, it will be hot tomorrow, the weather forecast in Dallas.

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