"Alterior motive" redux

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Wed Jun 7 01:26:44 UTC 2006

On 6/6/06, Wilson Gray <hwgray at gmail.com> wrote:
> 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.
> ;-)

Ah, OK. So then are you one of the "traditionalists" that this AHD
usage note refers to?

Some traditionalists hold that _alternative_ should be used only in
situations where the number of choices involved is exactly two,
because of the word's historical relation to Latin _alter_, "the other
of two." Despite the word's longstanding use to mean "one of a number
of things from which only one can be chosen" and the acceptance of
this usage by many language critics, a substantial portion of the
Usage Panel adheres to the traditional view, with only 49 percent
accepting the sentence "Of the three alternatives, the first is the
least distasteful."

--Ben Zimmer

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

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