"Alterior motive" redux

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jun 7 02:17:14 UTC 2006

Curse you, Ben Baron! I didn't know about that. Now, I'll never be
able to forget it. From now on, every time that I see, "the best of
the 2+n alternatives," a cold shiver wil run down my spine and I won't
be able to sleep for a week! ;-) Living with "the _best_ of two" has
been tribulation enough.


On 6/6/06, Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at babel.ling.upenn.edu> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> 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:
> >
> > 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?
> -----
> http://www.bartleby.com/61/21/A0232100.html
> 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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