Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
In post #14 of this thread: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/sho … p?t=426087 I just encountered the word “infinitesmall”. Having read Language Log for a long time, and their posts on eggcorns, my first reaction to the word was: isn’t this an eggcorn for “infinitesimal”?
What are your thoughts? Is it an eggcorn?
I think that “infinitesmall” is a spelling that makes sense of “infinitesimal” like this: “infinite”+”small”= infinitely small.
I have searched the database and the forums for infinitesmall, and there was a zero result, so I hope this hasn’t been discussed before.
Perhaps I should add that English is my second language – my first language is Swedish. So what am I doing trying to discover an English eggcorn?
My answer is that pro primo, I love languages and studying them, and pro secundo, the English language has of course a much greater presence on the net than Swedish, and therefore there is much more discussion going on about English than about Swedish. I’m trying to collect Swedish eggcorns, too, though, and even coming up with a Swedish name for them, if such doesn’t already exist.
Thanks in advance for any reply! :-)
Infinitesmall sounds like an eggcorn to me, and your analysis is right on the mark.
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simplicity, we first consider two points with infinitesmall distance dx. ..... This is propagator of the system for the infinitesmall period t − t …
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Validity of an Inductive Axiom: Philosophy ForumsMost rationalists of today would likely hold it to be that of an infinitesmall difference. Still inunderstandable? Are you familiar with the basic problems …
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ILT-BQ: Conservation of Energy 1The normal force is always perpendicular to the surface and the infinitesmall displacement at any point is along the surface. Thus the dot product n(dot)dl …
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Last edited by jorkel (2007-06-25 17:58:44)
Thanks, jorkel! :-)
Btw, I googled “infinitesmall”, and got 270 results. But to my surprise, Google suggests (“Did you mean:”) the word “infinitesemal”, which gets 645 results. While “Infinitesimal” gets 3,660,000 results.
Hi ArtifexAmando, welcome to the Forum! I think we need more non-native speakers here—natives can often overlook familiar oddities. (And I recently found myself incapable of translating a simple passage in Swedish here on the Forum: http://eggcorns.lascribe.net/forum/view … ?pid=3640. Is a typist going crazy or haywire?)
I love “infinite-small” as a variant spelling for infinitesimal—it’s great. And I think it may be eggcornish for some users, but it’s really hard to be sure.
“Infinitesimal” breeds endless misspellings, and “infinitesmall” combines two obvious and common possibilities—the omission of an unstressed vowel (esp. right after the stress) in that missing fourth “i,” and the doubling of the final consonant in that extra “l.” “Infinitesmal” gets 21,800 hits and “infinitesimall” gets 160—so both those phenomena are already at work on “infinitesimal” even without the influence of eggcornishness. It is interesting, however, that the latter spelling gets fewer hits than “infinitesmall” itself—that might or might not suggest that a few misspellers are indulging in eggcorn-thinking.
Another potential problem here is that the “a” in “infinitesimal” is always reduced to a weak “schwa” sound, and the unstressed final syllable doesn’t sound much at all like the stressed “small.” So if “infinitesmall” is a spelling influenced by common speech patterns—as the missing “i” may imply—then this probably isn’t an eggcorn for many of the people using it.
It’d be easier to be sure that there’s an eggcorn at work here if “infinitesmall” were getting a good deal more hits than other predictable misspellings. But it’s not; “infintesmal,” for instance, gets 620 hits. Still, there may be a few people out there thinking “infinite-small.” And in any case, it’s an entertaining find even if it’s not an eggcorn.
Amazing detectivework, Pat. I probably would have stopped at “infinitesmal” and concluded that the ”-al” ending was garden-variety. But then you demonstrated the occurrence of “infinitesimall,” and now I’m having serious doubts about the eggcornicity of “infinitesmall.” Unfortunately, I can’t really use context to argue in favor of “infinite” + “small” because all these variations share this as their intended meaning. (And it would be nice if we could ask the utterers if they had this precise juxtaposition in mind, but we eggcorn hunters almost never get that opportunity).
Before departing this topic, let me try a couple more ideas:
1. Has anyone ever heard someone pronounce the word “infinitesimal” with the ending sounding like “small”?
2. Could a person actually write the word “infinitesmall” and not notice that it ends in “small”?
(The answer to the latter question is probably “yes” because I’m certain that most people never notice that the word “homeowner” contains the word “meow”).
Last edited by jorkel (2007-06-26 02:33:55)