"Alterior motive" redux

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jun 6 06:27:49 UTC 2006

Today, I came across "alterior motive" for the first time. However, a
quick look at the Eggcorn Forum revealed that it was nothing new.
Unfortunately, a poster attempted to make real sense out of this
eggcorn, pointing out that _alter_ is Latin for "other." And so it is,
but in a very restricted sense: "alter" means specifically "the other
of _two_" and was regularly used as the ordinal, "second," as also was
the case with the Old-English ancestor of "other."  Latin -ior is the
ending of the non-neuter comparative. Therefore, if "alterior" had
ever existed in Latin, it would have had to mean something like "more
other than the other of two." But, of course, Latin already had a word
that more or less expressed that concept: "alius," which meant, "the
other(s) of more than two."

-Wilson Gray

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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