averse » adverse

Chiefly in:   adverse to

Classification: English

Spotted in the wild:

  • They said they were not adverse to giving local people first chance. (Lederer & Dowis, Sleeping Dogs Don't Lay, p. 63)
  • We are not adverse to adding additional accounts as we come across them simply because out of each account a little more is learned. It should also be noted that Clan Chief’s themselves were not adverse to “improving” on their own official histories to make themselves look a little more important or to minimise a particularly sorry part in their clan history. (link)
  • 3) If ResearchBuzz has covered your resource before, please let us know why we should cover it again. We’re not adverse to covering resources more than once, but you need to make a compelling argument as to why it should be done. (link)
  • We’re not adverse to meeting with you and your daughters and sons if that makes sense, though our experience suggests that the prospect of a meeting will appeal more to you than to them. (link)

Analyzed or reported by:

  • Adam Linville (link)

I heard an NPR reporter say that someone was “adverse to handouts”, and found, amid many legal usages of “adverse to”, some more that replace “averse to.”

[AMZ, 15/16 September 2005: The advice manuals mostly treat “adverse”/”averse” as a simple word confusion, like “flaunt”/”flout” or “militate”/”mitigate”; see, for example, Hatcher & Goddard, The Dirty Dozen: Words Even Smart People Misuse, p. 24. The American Heritage Book of English Usage has an entry that seems to suggest that the substitution can go in either direction. Brians has it; he notes that “averse” is a much rarer word than “adverse”, which would suggest “averse” >> “adverse” as the more likely substitution. Lederer & Dowis speak of “confusion”, but give only the example above, from a Concord (NH) Monitor story quoting a local businesswoman. Finally, Fiske’s Dictionary of Disagreeable English has an entry for incorrect “averse” (i.e. “adverse” >> “averse”), but Fiske notes that “adverse” is sometimes used for “averse”, with a citation of “risk adverse market participants”.

“Averse” is not only (probably) rarer (in text frequency) than “adverse”, but it is also (certainly) more restricted in its collocates, being pretty much limited to “averse to s.t.” and “risk-averse”, while “adverse” can modify a variety of nouns. The raw Google web hits favor “averse” >> “adverse”, with “adverse to” getting something like 1,700,000 hits (many of them, as Burlingham noted, in legal usages like “adverse to their interests”, but there are still a huge number of mistaken occurrences of “adverse to”) and “risk-adverse” getting ca. 127,000, while expressions like “averse reaction”, “averse reactions”, “averse effect”, “averse effects”, “averse weather”, and “averse circumstances” get hits only in the hundreds.

But is either of these substitutions an eggcorn? You can make a case for “averse” >> “adverse”, given the relationship of “adverse” to “adversary” and “adversity”, with a semantic component of opposition that is also present in “averse to”. The case for “adverse” >> “averse” is much weaker.]

| link | entered by Ann Burlingham, 2005/09/13 |

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