[Ads-l] Cowardous

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Feb 5 16:18:47 EST 2021


Not simply a misspelling, or “cowardous” would be used as a noun rather than an adjective. And to the extent that “populous” is “really a misspelling” of “populace”, it too would be used as a noun, as it sometimes is. Some attested hits:

In 1980, the bulge of the populous was under age 35.
The sense of inequality and injustice that permeated the populous was very strong
There were very few public concerts and the populous was rarely invited to the palace.

These do involve simple misspellings, I grant. But the -ous ending of “cowardous” in contexts like "I believe in many respects that the Republicans acted in a cowardous manner” suggests someone hearing “cowardice” and implicitly parsing it as an adjective, or alternately trying to come up with the adjective corresponding to “coward” and remembering hearing /'kau at rd@s/. This isn’t really a case of misspelling, since “cowardous” would be the correct spelling of such an adjective, if it existed. 

LH

> On Feb 5, 2021, at 3:59 PM, Bwh031451 <bwh031451 at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> 
> I submit that “cowardous” survives largely as a misspelling of “cowardice”.
> 
> Similarly, “populous” is often really a misspelling of “populace”.   (Although neither are obsolete.)
> 
> In either case, it is a spell-it-like-you-hear-it error.
> 
> Perhaps a closer parallel is “avarice”/“avarous”.
> 
> Brian Hitchcock
> At Large
> Email:  bwh031451 at gmail.com
> 
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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