Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2015-05-30
Two gastropod biologists have laid transect lines of slug/snail covers in a forest reserve that I monitor. I will be walking their transects and checking the traps for them.
A transect, from the Latin term for cutting (cf. “section”), is a path along which biologists inventory organisms. By applying mathematical methods to counts made on a transect, scientists can estimate overall population densities. “Transect” acquired this specific technical meaning at the beginning of the twentieth century.
“Transect” sounds and looks like another Latin derivative, “transept.” A transept, though, is not an item that biologists spend much time thinking about. It is the area in a cathedral or church that lies at right angles to the nave, the main hall. In a church laid out in the form of a cross, the transepts would be the horizontal arms of the cross. “Transept,” which entered English in the sixteenth century, comes from a Latin term for an enclosed space (cf. “septum”).
The two words are occasionally (and erroneously) interchanged. “Transept” for “transect:”
: “In this experiment you will carry out a line transept in a habitat of your own choosing.”
: “I was just leaving the transept line in 40 feet of water and swimming toward the boat”
“Transect” for “transept:”
: “Among others, he painted a remarkable picture of the View across the South Transect.”
: “On the wings of the cross are the North and South Transects. ”
Substituting “transept” for “transect” is probably just an error, but “transect” for “transept” may be an eggcorn. Some of those who call the church areas “transects” may think of the line down the middle of the transepts as transecting, cutting across, the nave.