Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
In contributors to this forum discussed the shift from “extenuating circumstances” to “attenuating circumstances.” The terms “extenuating” and “attenuating,” the thread notes, hail from the same Latin root.
Another common eggcorn of “extenuating” does not share its root: “extenduating circumstances” imports the word “extend,” which derives from the Latin ex + tenare, to stretch; “extenuating” descends from Latin ex + tenuis, thin.
As an independent verb, “extenuate,” which means to thin out/diminish/weaken/disparage/underrate, has fallen on hard times. On we can see the steady 200-year decline of the verb. We can also see that an idiomatized form, the adjectival participle in the phrase “extenuating circumstances,” has trended in the opposite direction, becoming more common with the passing decades. As the base verb disappears, the idiomatized form becomes more opaque, more prone to be replaced.
Perhaps those who substitute “extenduating” for “extentuating” are thinking about circumstances that extend the deadline for accountability, circumstances that allow, as it were, the chickens of consequence to come home to roost an hour or two later than usual.
Three of the 200+ examples on the web:
: “There have only been an handful a cases of transmission in this way in the last 25 years and those had extenduating circumstances.”
: “The loan ballooned in March of 08, however seller decided to finance us for another year, due to extenduating circumstances. ”
: “Generally first time DUI offenders with no other extenduating circumstances or other prior record in CA will get Informal Probation. ”
Good one, almost Archie Bunker level. Here’s another that occurs to me, though it’s not as common. Extranuating circumstances are those that are extraneous and cause additional strain.
And trust me, that “extranuating circumstances” clause is not nearly as good as its supposed to be.
Health care program bitterness