on accident

Joseph Carson samizdata at EARTHLINK.NET
Sat Jan 15 05:02:31 UTC 2000


Herb Stahlke wrote: This morning an AP story on the Simpsons, reprinted in our student newspaper, contained the following description of Maggie Simpson:  "Perpetual infant best known for shooting Monty Burns, on accident." I had first heard the phrase "on accident" in the early '80s from my son, then 12 or so.  <snip>

This is purely anecdotal, but when I used to live in Minneapolis, Northfield and Brainerd/Nisswa, MN in the 1970s-1980s, the expression "on accident" was widely if very rarely used as a form of shorthand for the phrase "accidentally on purpose."  The form "on purpose" was the normal way of describing someone's intent prior to doing something purposeful, good or bad, while the "on accident" was a way of implying that someone's actual intent was concealed by the apparently "accidental" character of the means used to achieve their end(s) by subtrefuge, but without risking the disapproval or suspicion of others.  Example: "He wrecked the car his ex-wife was going to be awarded in their divorce settlement on accident."  Note - More often than not, this usage was understood and resorted to by people born after 1960 or so.  Since moving to San Francisco a dozen years
ago, I've only heard it used once or twice, and both times in conversations with other Upper Midwest expats like myself, who correctly assumed that I would take their meaning as explained above.  Interestingly, the episode where the P. I. (Perpetual Infant) Maggie Simpson shot the evil Monty Burns was aired in syndication on UPN 44.  Coincidence? - I think NOT! Multimedia consolidation has gone much further than we suspect; now the AP, UPN 44 and your college newspaper are marching in conspiratorial lockstep to control the minds of our once great land! ;-) I'm new to the list, and glad to be here.  Regards, Joseph Carson

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