For/To all intents and purposes

Benjamin Barrett gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM
Wed Jan 10 22:00:30 UTC 2007

Arnold M. Zwicky wrote:
> On Jan 10, 2007, at 1:21 AM, Benjamin Barrett wrote:
>> I sent in a dictionary correction for this item and was told that the
>> expression is "to all intents and purposes". The citation given me as
>> evidence is
>> 27_or_%27all_intense_purposes%27.
>> To me, "for" sounds much better" and I don't see a reason to cite
>> one or
>> the other as being correct (and Google gives over a million hits
>> for each).
> i'd agree with that.  they both sound fine to me.  but there's a
> school of thought that maintains that when there are two variants
> that aren't differentiated in meaning or stylistic level, one must be
> correct and the other incorrect.  one way of deciding which is which
> is to favor the older variant.
>> From being misheard and repeated, people also say "FOR all intents and
>> purposes" but that is a product of the original phrase being misheard
>> and repeated.
> i get the "repeated" part: once the variant is out there, it can
> serve as a model for other speakers.  but the "misheard" part strikes
> me as preposterous.  why would "to" be misheard as "for"?
> this is much more likely to have originated as a reshaping in the
> direction of greater sensicality -- a kind of prepositional
> eggcorning.  the meaning of "intents" here is obscure (which is why
> "intents and" so often gets turned into "intensive"), but insofar as
> you can understand it as something close to "intentions", then the
> preposition "to" is odd: ??"This is to all intentions a bad idea".
> "for" is a (slight) improvement.  but things are much clearer with
> "purposes": "to all purposes" is bizarre, while "for all purposes"
> makes some real sense.
Thank you for this follow-up. This and Wilson's e-mails give me enough
ammunition to insist that "for" be added to the entry.

As the cited webpage claimed this goes back to the 1500s, I wondered if
the "to" simply belongs to an older form of grammar whose frozen state
in this expression is now in the process of being updated. If people are
indeed correcting the grammar, that would explain why the webpage author
is claiming it is being "misheard". BB

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