"proliferate" as adjective"

Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Thu May 21 14:09:02 UTC 2009

It's a really bad sentence. I have no clue what she means by it. In addition
to the adjective/preposition problem, I think she's using the wrong verb. A
large number of ballot initiatives is not the problem here. (It is a problem
in California politics, but not in this case.)

I think what she really meant to say was "the process for promulgating."

Another possibility is "profligate budget initiatives." Makes sense as many
ballot initiatives end up wasting money, but again it's not the situation in
this particular case.

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
Herb Stahlke
Sent: Thursday, May 21, 2009 5:11 AM
Subject: "proliferate" as adjective"

In today's NYT Online is the sentence

As the notion of California as ungovernable grows stronger than ever,
Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has expressed support for a
convention to address such things as the state's arcane budget
requirements and its process for proliferate ballot initiatives, both
of which necessitated Tuesday's statewide vote on budget matters
approved months ago by state lawmakers.

If the writer, Jennifer Steinhauer, had written "to proliferate ballot
initiatives" instead of "for proliferate ballot initiatives," it
probably wouldn't have caught my ear, but I came back to the word and
tried to pronounce it with a schwa in the final syllable.  OED Online
does not list this adjectival form, and I haven't seen it before,
although there is certainly plenty of grounds for such an analogical


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