Pesky 18th Century

Filed under:Language Barrier,Need a Good Editor? — posted by Anwyn on January 31, 2008 @ 4:49 pm

“Transpire,” or “transpired.”

Meaning: To become known, as in “It did not transpire until the next day that McClellan had actually been defeated.”

Misuse: To happen, as in “What transpired there between Lee and McClellan is not yet known.”

True, Merriam-Webster, as with “comprise,” says that because the incorrect meaning has been in use since the 18th century, it’s all good. But why should meanings that come into use through misuse gain legitimacy solely on that basis, even if they are perpetrated by leading lights like Abigail Adams? On that basis, the apostrophe’s torturous misuse in phrases like “She went to see the Sheldon’s” will soon be completely okay. Which would be a multitude of shame’s.

image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace