"deserted island"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Sun Oct 16 22:22:49 UTC 2005

Current promos for Florida orange juice, paid for by the Florida Department of Citrus, suggest that if you don't want to drink OJ to ward off the flu, your next best bet is to "move to a deserted island" and not go near anyone for six months. (The poor boob in the ad who tries this gets sneezed on by a chimp anyway.)

My students have been using "deserted island" for decades because they think a "desert island" has to have a desert on it. Now Google turns up well over half a million hits for "deserted island."

Do I hear a whippersnapper asking, "Desert shmesert, what's the diff ?"  The diff, whippersnappers, is that a "deserted" island used to have folks on it, but a "desert island" is so godawful that presumably it never has.

English had better maintain this distinction if it intends to remain a world-class tongue.  Otherwise, the fate of Old Church Slavonic awaits.


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