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#1 2013-05-22 08:23:21

Dixon Wragg
Eggcornista
From: Santa Rosa, California
Registered: 2008-07-04
Posts: 653

"comprehensible" and "switch"

I saw this tonight in an online chatroom:

The bad news is your wasted tax payer money on a case that not only wasn’t winable, but which it was morally comprehensible to prosecute.

Googling “morally comprehensible” yielded 380 hits, though many, many of them were redundant appearances of the same sentence (from a discussion of the classic “graphic novel” Watchmen). I found only one example of the substitution in the 70 randomly selected hits I examined:

I am by no means a Toyota supporter, but why no mass media coverage of the equally dangerous Chevy Cobalt recall? Huh, Ray LaHood? Is someone making you shut up, or are you just a morally comprehensible idiot?

I initially thought these folks were substituting “comprehensible” for “reprehensible”, then later realized it might be a substitution for “incomprehensible”. Now I don’t know which it is. It could conceivably be eggcornish, as “morally comprehensible” could, in someone’s fevered imagination, mean that we can reasonably make a (negative) moral judgment about the person so described. Thus it could be an eggcorn of either “reprehensible” or “incomprehensible”. Of course, that’s a bit of a stretch; maybe it’s just a typo.

While scanning the Google hits, I encountered this one:

switch watchmen is the most morally comprehensible

It took me a minute to realize “switch” is a substitution for “which” here! It seems very strange to me. Perhaps this person is just learning English? I’m thinking they heard “which” after some word ending in an “s” sound and thought the “s” was the first part of “which”—thus “switch” for “which”. Has anyone else here ever seen/heard “switch” for “which”?

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#2 2013-05-22 14:57:44

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1780
Website

Re: "comprehensible" and "switch"

This is a lot like the ubiquitous I could care less ; instead of the expected negative you get a positive statement which, as you say, “could, in someone’s fevered imagination,” be wangled into a statement allowing for the negative judgment. (“I actually could care less, but I’d have to try really hard”, or “It is morally understandable to me, but only because I understand depravity too.” Or perhaps, “It is just within the lower limit of what I can comprehend of people’s (im)moral decisions/actions.”)
.
I have confessional evidence of people parsing “I could care less” that way; it would be good to get the same for this case.
.
Switch could conceivably be a two-key typo + omission: s and w are adjacent, single-finger keys on the qwerty keyboard, and w for wh is common enough (as well as phonetically motivated for many speakers.)


*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 2013-05-22 20:24:46

Dixon Wragg
Eggcornista
From: Santa Rosa, California
Registered: 2008-07-04
Posts: 653

Re: "comprehensible" and "switch"

DavidTuggy wrote:

Switch could conceivably be a two-key typo + omission: s and w are adjacent, single-finger keys on the qwerty keyboard, and w for wh is common enough (as well as phonetically motivated for many speakers.)

That doesn’t explain how the t got into the word. With that in mind, the simple typo explanation seems quite unlikely. This case remains strange and mysterious to me.

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#4 2013-05-22 22:11:39

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1780
Website

Re: "comprehensible" and "switch"

Both whitch and swich are fairly common misspellings; itch is a more common spelling for the sound [ɪtʃ] than ich . (Spelling contamination from witch is not a negligible possibility as well.)


*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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