interstate highway to Cupertino?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Jul 21 20:07:22 UTC 2009

At 3:49 PM -0400 7/21/09, Geoff Nathan wrote:
>Only marginally relevant, but, for those who
>actually know the rarer word, do you have the
>same stress pattern for the two?  I don't.
>For me the words are [ínterst? te] vs [intést?
>te] where the legal term has primary stress on
>the middle syllable, leading to an aspirated /t/
>before it, while the highway sense has a trochee
>in which the /nt/ is a nasalized flap, merging
>with /n/ as if it were 'innerstate' (like 'inner
>tube').  So this would have to be a
>typing/spelling confusion, surely.

Agreed.  For the more frequent "intestate" >
"interstate" shift, I'm assuming total
unfamiliarity with the former word, and the
assumption that it was probably a typo.  So an
orthographic eggcorn, on the model of "chaise
longue" > "chaise lounge".


>Geoffrey S. Nathan
>Faculty Liaison, C&IT
>and Associate Professor, Linguistics Program
>+1 (313) 577-1259 (C&IT)
>+1 (313) 577-8621 (English/Linguistics)
>----- "Laurence Horn" <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU> wrote:
>>  From: "Laurence Horn" <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>>  Sent: Tuesday, July 21, 2009 3:32:45 PM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern
>>  Subject: Re: interstate highway to Cupertino?
>>  ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>  -----------------------
>>  Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>  Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>>  Subject:      Re: interstate highway to Cupertino?
>>  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
>>  >roads":
>>  >
>>  >>>_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
>>  >announced.
>>  >
>>  >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.
>>  LH
>>  ------------------------------------------------------------
>>  The American Dialect Society -
>The American Dialect Society -

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