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Chris -- 2015-05-30

#1 2008-03-29 22:44:20

Registered: 2006-08-08
Posts: 1455

MISS for mis-

I saw the word “misshap” in print somewhere and was thinking that it might be more than just a typo. And I started wondering if there were other such instances of where the prefix “mis-” actually get conceptually replaced with the meaning embodied by “miss” used as the front of a compound word.

The prefix “mis-” can take on a variety of related meanings from “badly” to “lack of” to “unfavorably.” The word “miss” takes on various meanings including “to fail to obtain.” So, for instance, when someone writes “misscalculates” he might actually intend that the calculation involves a “miss” ...a failure to hit the desired target.

Perhaps there’s a more convincing case to be made with missfire… One may use “missfire” to describe a problem of an automobile’s distrubutor cap; since the cap is supposed to allow the spark plugs to fire in sequence, one might perceive the problem as “firings being missed” rather than “firings being unfavorable.” The former notion would be “missfire” and the latter would be “misfire.”

I’m sure there a plenty of other possibilities for the base word, but here are examples of the three I discuss above:

Oddyssey antifreeze misshap – Honda Car Forum – Accord Parts…
I absent-mindedly poured some antifreeze in my Oddyssey’s windshield fluid container. Does it matter if I empty it out by pumping it out regularly? Or.… – 59k – Similar pages … sshap.html

Martial Arts Planet – delayed death returns!!
This is usually done through a misscalculation of the combination of nerves or acupuncture points needed to treat a patient. That would be, an accident. ... – 112k – Similar pages

Nissan Repair: missfire
Steve, Did you take the distributor apart to check for oil in the optical pickup? The distributor is probably the reason the truck is doing what it is.… – 17k – Similar pages … ssfire.htm

Last edited by jorkel (2008-03-29 22:46:29)



#2 2008-03-30 13:06:15

Registered: 2007-03-21
Posts: 291

Re: MISS for mis-

The suggestion that missfire is understood as “firings being missed” seems possible as a reanalysis, though a slightly different reanalysis would have to be involved in misshap. I don’t think it’s a reanalysis of “happenings being missed” (though I suppose it’s possible).

As jorkel suggests, the prefix mis, the verb miss and the noun miss each have multiple meanings. The semantic space of these forms is wide and features a good deal of overlap. That is, the meaning of mis is partly the same as the meaning(s) of miss, so that, even if these are not misspellings (or missspellings?) they do not necessarily feature new semantic imagery.

(While I have said and still believe that a word is not its etymology, I also note that both the prefix and the verb are thought to derive historically from the same Germanic root, miss or mithe.)



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