Eggcorn Forum

Discussions about eggcorns and related topics

You are not logged in.


Registrations are currently closed because of a technical problem. Please send email to if you wish to register.

The forum administrator reserves the right to request users to plausibly demonstrate that they are real people with an interest in the topic of eggcorns. Otherwise they may be removed with no further justification. Likewise, accounts that have not been used for posting may be removed.

Thanks for your understanding.

Chris -- 2018-04-11

#1 2020-12-30 12:04:46

From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-11
Posts: 2459

exasperate < exacerbate

Jorkel in his invaluable cataloguing of Paul Brians’ invaluable list of common errors lists this pair (with no directionality indicated) in his category 4, that of “Words sometimes confused—source for malapropisms, or substitution words in eggcorns.” There seem to be plenty of examples, including published ones, of people using exasperate (the more common and low-brow of the two) for exacerbate .

This tendency will be exasperated by the attitude of the members

Finally, the diagnosis of a toxic-thyroid condition explained some of the erratic behavior, though his lifelong bouts with and without alcohol often exasperated problems.

(friend suffering from allergies:) The place where they are staying (my BIL’s parents) have several cats and a dog and it is probably exasperating the problem.

the totalization agreement with Mexico would likely exasperate our Social Security crisis

That has been exasperated by events beyond our control.

and so forth.
It would be odd to posit that perps think situations, problems, crises, tendencies, etc., get intensely (or even mildly) frustrated and irritated. But it seems more reasonable that they might think people get worsened (“made more violent, bitter, or severe” M-W) by the things that frustrate and irritate them. If so, the use of the same form for both kinds of situations would make plenty of sense. So, in a backwards kind of way, it would be a pretty good eggcornical usage: the “wrong” form is happily used because the meaning in the “right” usages is shifted to fit the cases where it would otherwise be wrong.
The converse usage, that of exacerbate to describe what happens to people, helps make the notion plausible, perhaps, though most people who make the substitution probably wouldn’t be able to define exacerbate as “make worse”. Those exacerbate < exasperate examples smell to me like they may often be hypercorrective in origin: people have been corrected from using exasperate to use exacerbate enough that, still thinking they are dealing with the same word, they may use exacerbate whenever they think their wording/writing might be scrutinized.

She was exacerbated by her time in detention so it was a really emotional and traumatic experience for her.”

By the time her 2nd album came out, Ellie told the Guardian she was exacerbated by Ed Sheeran who made her sound promiscuous in his hit song “Don’t”.

I was exacerbated by the entire process and will not rent from U-haul again unless it is an emergency.

Don’t irritate her or exacerbate her or embitter her.

And, of course, non-eggcornical stuff may be going on at any time, such as the phonological metathesis of [‘æsɹ̩beʲ] to [‘æsb/pɹ̩eʲ], or people’s guess that such a shift is what/all that has happened.
The common use of aggravate to mean irritate/exasperate is certainly relevant as well.

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2020-12-30 13:50:36)

*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 .)



Board footer

Powered by PunBB
PunBB is © 2002–2005 Rickard Andersson
Individual posters retain the copyright to their posts.

RSS feeds: active topicsall new posts