some kind of malaprop

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Wed Mar 14 19:47:11 UTC 2007

On Mar 14, 2007, at 11:45 AM, Erik Hoover wrote, about "innocuous to
health" 'damaging to health':

> I think Dr. Nehring or may have confused/switched noxious and
> innocuous.

good suggestion.  i suggested "injurious" both because it has the
prefix "in-" and because it has the right syntax.  well, that was my
judgment about the syntax -- that "noxious" doesn't occur with
affected objects marked by the preposition "to": "injurious to
health", fine; "noxious to health", dubious to me.

affected objects of this sort are fine with "harmful" (the OED has
several cites with such objects, and i get 271,000 raw google
webits), "harmless" (huge number of webhits), and "injurious" (again,
the OED has several cites, and i get 220,000 webhits).  but they turn
out to well-represented on the net with "noxious" as well (62,400
webhits), so (despite my initial judgment), "noxious to health" is a
good candidate for a contributor to Nehring's "innocuous to health".

interestingly, "innocuous to" gets a lot of hits (90,000), but almost
all of them seem to be clearly in the sense 'harmless to' (as you'd
expect for "innocuous " 'harmless'), not in Nehring's intended sense
'harmful to'.


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