by-election » bi-election
Spotted in the wild:
- “Note that when a politician leaves (or gets dismissed), there’s a bi-election for that seat rather than having someone appoint a new person (or one of their friends/family).” (E-mail from Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky on 12 November 2004)
- “No member for Stapenhill, awaiting bi-election …” (link)
- “The management of flying foxes in suburban Katherine has emerged as a key issue in this weekends bi-election …” (link)
Analyzed or reported by:
- Arnold Zwicky (The Fall Eggcorn Crop, on Language Log)
The first cite is from e-mail to Elizabeth Zwicky, about Australian electoral politics. On 19 August 2005, Google produced ca. 4,540 raw webhits. From countries that have by-elections, of course.
The semantics seems clear: a by-election is an extra election — so two elections (”bi”) where you’d expect only one. Most people find the “by” of “by-election” opaque.