"Alterior motive" redux

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jun 7 01:19:38 UTC 2006

Yes, Ben, I understood that. That's why I didn't post my comment to
the forum itself. I was merely being pedantic and, well, showing off.


On 6/6/06, Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at babel.ling.upenn.edu> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: "Alterior motive" redux
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On 6/6/06, Wilson Gray <hwgray at gmail.com> wrote:
> > 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."
> http://eggcorns.lascribe.net/forum/viewtopic.php?id=176
> This was a post by the indefatigable eggcornista Ken Lakritz. I don't
> believe Ken was seriously suggesting that "alterior" is etymologically
> justified. Rather, he was performing the usual eggcornological
> thought-experiment of imagining what sort of semantic justification
> the eggcorn user might have. In this case, "alter-" is commonly
> understood to mean 'other, different' (Ken made no mention of Latin)
> thanks to "alter ego" and "alternative" (as in "alternative
> lifestyle", "alternative newspaper", etc.). So it's not far-fetched to
> imagine that an "alterior motive" is construed, in Ken's words, as "a
> motive other than the manifest or acknowledged one."
> --Ben Zimmer
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