In reality, though, the question arose last October in a conversation with my fifth grader, when I told her that she needed discipline in managing time. I, of course, mean to say "the controlled behavior resulting from" training, usually the first entry in a dictionary. In a dictionary that I know, that is. Then, I realised that I hadn't used this word with her, so I half-heartedly followed up: "You know the word, discipline, right?" "I think so. *Punishment*."
What a shock! Here and there, I heard her school use the phrase "give somebody discipline" in that sense. But I had never thought of punishment as the first thing coming out of a ten-years-old's mouth. OK. English is my second language. So I asked for her copy of Marriam-Webster (pocket).
"1: PUNISHMENT 2: a field of study: SUBJECT 3: training that corrects, molds, or perfects 4: control gained by obedience or training: orderly conduct 5: a system of rules governing conduct"
Huh? Have I been so wrong all these years? So I pulled out a dictionary that had accompanied me for more than three decades, not that I had ever looked up this word therein.
"1 [U] training of the mind and body to produce obedience and self-control: school/military discipline 2 [U] control gained as a result of this training: ... 3 [U] punishment: ... 4 [C] a method of training: ... 5 [C] a branch of learning studied at a university: ..."
That is Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, a volume that the British has compiled for foreigners. Is this just another war between the New World and the Old World? After explaining to her what I really meant, I had to dig more. So I look up even more references. Both American and British Oxford on OS X have no “punishment” as main entry. (“Punish” appears in verb definition.) Their first entry does refer to punishment, in this definition: "the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behaviour, using punishment to correct disobedience.” Dictionary.com also places “punishment” in third entry. I even asked Siri. Why not? “From 7 definitions of ‘discipline’, the first one is: a branch of knowledge.” The fifth is “act of punishing.” (That screenshot must be from WolframAlpha. In iOS 8, it is using built-in dictionary that is perhaps Oxford.)
Then, there is Newberry House Dictionary of American English. No entry for “punishment”; the concept of punishment isn’t associated with any of the three entries. Come The American Heritage Student Dictionary, same deal. Et Multidictionnaire de la langue française, aussi. (The word did originate from old French, right?)
Last (but not always the least), there is Wikipedia: “Discipline is the suppression of base desires, and is usually understood to be synonymous with self control. Self-discipline is to some extent a substitute for Motivation. Discipline is when one uses reason to determine the best course of action that opposes one's desires, which is the opposite of Fun.” That is the main entry. Its disambiguation page offers the following:
"Discipline is any training intended to produce a specific character or pattern of behaviour.
Discipline may also refer to:
* Discipline (specialism), a specific branch of knowledge, learning and practice, such as an academic or professional discipline
* Church discipline, a response of an ecclesiastical body to some perceived wrong
* Punishment, an imposition of something negative on a person or animal in response to behavior deemed wrong
* An element of BDSM
Dizzy? Let me summarise.
1. Of 7 English language dictionaries, 1 French language dictionary, plus English Widipedia and Siri, only Marriam-Webster makes "punishment" as the first entry; 9 of them do not explicitly relate punishment with its first entry, 5 do not include a separate entry for "punishment".
2. Of 4 American English language dictionaries (not including Dictionary.com and Siri), plus English Wikipedia whose style guide recommends American English unless writing about dialects, only Marriam-Webster makes "punishment" as the first entry; 3 do not explicitly relate punishment with its first entry, 3 do not include a separate entry for "punishment".
Still convinced that "discipline" means "punishment" first and foremost? What is your discipline on "discipline"?