interstate highway to Cupertino?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Jul 21 19:32:45 UTC 2009

At 3:19 PM -0400 7/21/09, Victor wrote:
>Would this make a case for "intestate" as a mere typo (as in "spelling
>error because of a missed key stroke"):
>>>Wife and I have been on the _interstate_ on our wing since we got it
>(only had it 3 months) but ride the _intestate_ only when other type
>roads aren't convienent. [sic]
>There is an additional ironic twist in two of the 6 hits for "intestate
>>>_Intestate roads_ in Texas. State-by-state data on the number of
>traffic fatalities occurring on rural, _non-Interstate routes_ from 1999
>to 2003 ...
>>>Despite the wealth of knowledge available about safe highway design,
>many new _Intestate roads_ have built-in death traps.
>Note that the first of these also has the interstate/intestate pair,
>just like the example above.

Agreed that these are simple typos.

>And here's a reverse situation, apparently from a phishing email:
>>>I am currently reading a "letter" that has been written by a
>Malaysian person apparently and in which an "unexpected inheritance" is
>I am not taking this letter seriously but would be curious to understand
>it fully. I came accross this sentence and wondered what "interstate"
>means here :
>I can confirm with certainty that the said investor dies interstate and
>no next of kin to his estate has been found or has come forward all
>these years.

I would imagine that garden-variety "intestate" > "interstate"
revisions would be caused by lack of familiarity with the former term
(despite its long history--as Arnold points out, it's now a lot less
frequent and more register-restricted than "interstate") and would I
suspect constitute an eggcorn.  The reason I invoked Cupertino in the
example of a shift in the other direction is precisely because nobody
would really think "intestate" ('without a will') had been intended
in that passage, so if it wasn't a mere typo it might have resulted
from an editorial spell-check at the Times, perhaps precisely one
that flagged lower-case "interstate" and required the copy-editor to
choose between "Interstate" and "intestate", which he or she
proceeded to do while thinking of something else.


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