"anathema to our values"

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Mon Oct 6 14:44:31 UTC 2008

in my inbox:

>> I'm an occasional language log reader, and I ran into what must be
>> an eggcorn that I've been saying, but I have no idea what the real
>> phrase is.  I'm hoping you can help me!
>> I was writing an email today and I wrote that something was
>> "anathema to ACLU values" then I asked google to define anathema to
>> make sure I was spelling it correctly, and I was quite surprised by
>> the definition - "(Gr. a curse, suspension). The spiritual
>> suspension with which the church may expel a person from her
>> community for various reasons".  Well that isn't what I meant to
>> say at all!  I googled for "anathema to our values" thinking google
>> might correct me.  Well google didn't correct me, and the phrase
>> only got 109 hits (including the New York Times and the BBC, so at
>> least I'm in good company).  I thought I had heard that phrase
>> thousands of times.  Am I going out of my mind?

my reply:

>> i thought at first that this was just an ordinary (classical)
>> malapropism, with "anathema" used where "antithetical" would be
>> appropriate. but now i see that the OED has a draft addition (of
>> june 2007) with the sense:

>   In predicative use: loathsome, repugnant, or extremely
> objectionable _to_.
> the OED has a 1648 cite that's not entirely clear, and then clear
> cites from 1862 on.
> and NOAD2 has "something or someone that one vehemently dislikes" as
> its first sense, with the example "racial hatred was anathema to her".
> but all the dictionary examples have human objects of "to", unlike
> the "anathema to our values" examples.  so maybe the values examples
> involve further extensions of the 'objectionable' sense, perhaps
> with some influence from "antithetical".

more hits on "anathema to my values", and a few for "anathema to our/
my beliefs/views".  plus some others that seem to fit with the
'antithetical, opposite' sense:

   I think my only complaint about the game is that it completely is
anathema to my tendency to want to get 100% completion when I play a

   This is anathema to my entire previous track record of fashion

   It's been just under a year now since I started practicing XP
programming, and I have to admit, as much as it is anathema to my
style of programming, ...


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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list