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#1 2013-12-10 14:55:47

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2161

excise << excess, axcise

“Excise” has two meanings in English. No surprise, since the word derives from two sources. One source is connected, via Dutch forebears, to the word “census.” The other source wends its way back to a Latin word for cut. The sense of “excise” connected to “census” refers in modern English to a kind of tax, usually a duty on goods (“I had to pay an excise tax of 3%.”). The other word, the one derived from cut, retains a sense very close to its ancestral meaning: to excise a growth is to cut it off (“The doctor excised the wart in mere seconds.”)

It is not unthinkable that these two etymologically independent senses of “excise” interweave a bit in current English. They may, in fact, have been influencing each other for centuries. Excise taxes take, as it were, a crucial cut, excising value and profit. If this interpenetration is happening/has happened, then “excise” is a hidden eggcorn.

Both sense of “excise” have also given rise nonhidden eggcorns. Pat pointed out, a few years ago, the confusion between “exorcise” and “excise.” Other—so far unreported—slips also swirl around “excise.”

(1) The tax sense of “excise” can morph into “excess.” The federal excise tax on gasoline turns into a “federal excess tax:”

Course notes: “Freeways are mainly paid for by the Federal government, using the Federal excess tax on gasoline of $.184/gal.”

RFP by a city government: “The City is exempt from paying federal excess tax on all fuel products”

We don’t have to reach far to find the reason for this switch. Indeed, from some political perspectives, all excise taxes are excess taxes.

(2) If “excess” for “excise” seems a little understated in its mashed metaphor, we can make it louder (and bloodier). “Excise tax” transforms itself into “axcise tax:”

Comment on business editorial: “I agree that the AIG axcise tax is unconstitutional; the rule of law must be maintained or the entire U.S. system of government has no basis on which to stand or be enforced.”

Response to a car question: “I paid about $1000 to ship an SUV from Philadelphia to PR. & then when it gets to PR there is an axcise tax based on the cars value in PR.”

Summary of an economics article: “Acting like an axcise tax, the OPEC oil price rise in 1974 triggered a recession which was then aggravated by excessively restrictive U.S. monetary policies, according to Dr. Klein.”

(3) But taxes aren’t the only ax wielders. The other sense of “excise” can make the same switch. We can excise, as it were, with an axe:

Discussion on removing a lump from a pet: “In summary especially if finance is a major consideration then I would axcise it completely.”

Web forum: “Just like a liberal….axcise a small segment of a given statement to errode context and change the meaning.”

Medical article: “Special care was taken in Grade III tumors with soft tissue involvement and the tumor along with the soft tissue mass till healthy soft tissue was visualised and axcised.”

Last edited by kem (2013-12-10 20:43:31)

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#2 2013-12-10 17:25:23

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1795
Website

Re: excise << excess, axcise

Very nice (sharp, keen, and otherwise ax-acting) analysis.
.
(Why do so many words we’ve used over the years to mean “good, admirable” share this precise meaning component?)


*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)

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#3 2013-12-10 21:01:29

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2161

Re: excise << excess, axcise

share this precise meaning component

Must be missing something. Why wouldn’t words that mean the same thing share a meaning component?

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#4 2013-12-10 22:22:09

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1795
Website

Re: excise << excess, axcise

Why the element of precision cutting specifically? (“Nice” originally meant, and still does in some contexts, “of unusual precision”, keen, sharp, I know there are others I’ve noticed in the past, but they aren’t coming to mind.) Why not three or four terms for deliciousness, or protection from the elements, or color matching, or eloquence, or the scratching of an itch, etc., turning into generalized terms for approval?

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2013-12-10 22:22:59)


*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)

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#5 2013-12-11 00:53:49

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2161

Re: excise << excess, axcise

Why the element of precision cutting specifically?

You could add to your list “pointed” and “trenchant.” On the other hand, “barbed,” “edgy,” “prickly,” “thorny,” and “cutting” seem like they have elements of disapprobation. “Sharp” can cut both ways.

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#6 2013-12-11 09:08:11

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1795
Website

Re: excise << excess, axcise

Yes, to all your points. But “pointed” and “trenchant” have not become terms of general approbation in the ways that “nice”, “keen”, and “sharp” have, at least in my recollection. (“Keen” and “sharp” are of course long out of date in that sense, but I and I suppose others still remember them.) Similarly the negative-tending cutting words are not terms of general disapprobation.


*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)

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