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#1 2006-04-13 05:54:36

patschwieterman
Administrator
From: California
Registered: 2005-10-25
Posts: 1665

"exasperating the situation"

This is clearly a malapropism rather than an eggcorn; the writers meant “exacerbate,” and “exasperate” really doesn’t make much sense in this phrase. I found roughly 1500 hits for the various forms of “exasperate the situation” – which suggests that a complete tally of all “exasperate”/”exacerbate” substitutions would probably run into the tens of thousands. And notice that this appears on a number of official or high profile sites: The Red Cross of America, Wikipedia, local government websites, etc. Spellcheckers might also play a role here, but I first heard it on the radio. I get the feeling that “exasperate the situation” may have attained a certain degree of mainstream acceptance among those who spend much of their time reading and writing officialese. Examples:

This week, rain showers exasperated the situation when runoff contaminated by dead bodies in rubble piles flowed into the streets.
http://www.redcross.org/news/in/earthqu … 5c-99.html

Apparently untrained security guards firing tear gas at the stampeding fans exasperated the situation further, and may have been the cause of the deaths.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellis_Park_Stadium

The looting and burning of the facilities have exasperated the situation.
http://www.educationnews.org/writers/ch … months.htm

Preconceived notions, neglect and contempt, mutual distrust and arcane codes and bye-laws have only exasperated the situation.
http://www.gdrc.org/icm/ppp/prague.html

Councilman Gisriel voiced concern with parking being a premium in certain areas, this amendment exasperated the situation.
http://www.town.ocean-city.md.us/clerk/ … 81996.html

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#2 2006-10-20 13:18:20

mr_sloane
Member
Registered: 2006-10-06
Posts: 15

Re: "exasperating the situation"

I heard an Alexander Technique trainer use ‘exasperate’ in this way last night. I agree it’s not quite an eggcorn, but it does almost make some kind of sense in relation to an injury, with ‘exasperated’ carrying a meaning of being at the end of your tether and worn out.

Google examples:

you stomp into the ground when you’re walking or slouch forward so you’re putting more weight on the front of your knees because your chest is collapsed or do violent stretches, those things exasperate injury.
http://www.nowtoronto.com/issues/2003-0 … health.php

Certain populations are more at risk for injuring the shoulder and there are exercise methods that can help or exasperate injury.
http://www.fitphysique.org/events/index.html

Pretreatment of acid-induced lung injury with specific neutrophil elastase inhibitor ONO-5046 did not exasperate the subsequent bacterial lung infection by Pseudomonas aeruginosa
http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=1491613

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#3 2009-03-01 05:03:07

Dixon Wragg
Eggcornista
From: Santa Rosa, California
Registered: 2008-07-04
Posts: 649

Re: "exasperating the situation"

patschwieterman wrote:

This is clearly a malapropism rather than an eggcorn; the writers meant “exacerbate,” and “exasperate” really doesn’t make much sense in this phrase.

I’m resurrecting this thread from 3 years ago because I’ve occasionally encountered this one, and I wish to make a case for it being a true eggcorn rather than a mere malapropism.

I think the meaning of “Exasperate” is close enough to that of “exacerbate” to make it a true eggcorn. Both are negatively connoted words. Any time something is exacerbated, we can expect that someone is exasperated thereby, and often when someone is exasperated it’s due to something being exacerbated. When I think of exasperation, I think of situations wherein someone is really frustrated because their repeated efforts are failing or because someone is repeatedly bugging them. In some cases, this means that the problem they’re dealing with is worsened (exacerbated). In every case of exasperation, we could say that the person’s mood itself is exacerbated (literally “made harsh or bitter”). And, the original meaning (late Middle English) of the noun “exacerbation” was “provocation to anger”, which seems very very close to exasperation. Also, my dictionary (New Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd edition) finds the meanings so close that they have a “usage box” in which they distinguish between the meanings of the two.

It seems clear to me that this is not just a case of confusing the sounds of two words; there’s enough of a meaning confusion to qualify this as an eggcorn.

Dixon

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