Your interest in distinctions
On Carol Saller’s invaluable advice, I’m going to drop the practice at this blog of bracketing case changes in quotations, because it “borders on pedantry and can get in the way of reading.” See at Lingua Franca what she says about changes that are permissible to make in quoted matter.
At Arrant Pedantry, Jonathon Owen quotes Steven Pinker as lamenting the erosion of the sense of disinterested as “impartial”—not having a personal interest in the outcome, no dog in that fight.*
But Mr. Owen points out that disinterested has swung back and forth between “unbiased” and “bored” for the better part of three centuries, indicating that no clear distinction ever existed. His suggestion dovetails with my own inclination: If you want to use disinterested to mean “impartial,” and you can, make sure that your meaning is firmly established in context.
His larger point deriving from this example is that we should be cautious about the distinctions we champion. He quotes his adviser, Don Chapman: “Often the claim that a distinction is useful seems to rest on little more than this: if the prescriber can state a clear distinction, the distinction is considered to be desirable ipso facto.”
In the original text, often is not capitalized, but I have paid attention to Carol Saller.
*Someone from PETA will be writing to upbraid me for using an expression that alludes to dog fighting. For the record I do not advocate, participate in, or condone dog fighting.