Rudolph C Troike rtroike at U.ARIZONA.EDU
Sat Dec 21 09:43:16 UTC 2002

"And the earth was without form, and void..." My guess is that the
extension of meaning of "inchoate" was by contamination from "incoherent",
not "chaos", as a sort of subtle malapropism, not easily detected. The
word is fairly rare and learned (a BNC search for frequencies, anyone?),
and subject to "infection" by users who are vaguely familiar with it (and
don't know what an "inchoative" is in grammar). Phonological similarity
helps the process, which is why I suggest that "incoherent" was the source
of the shift in meaning. (Of course, both influences could have been at
work, "chaos" giving a visual boost to its rarer cousin for spellers who
can't remember whether "i" precedes or follows "e".) Certainly, as has
been suggested, the close semantic association of something being in a
beginning state and being unorganized is a natural impetus, moreso than
"chaos", which to me always implies a violent state of disorder ("chaos
theory" to the contrary notwithstanding).


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