"cooperate" for "corporate"

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Sun Apr 26 18:27:03 UTC 2009

On Sun, Apr 26, 2009 at 1:55 PM, Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at stanford.edu> wrote:
> Ann Burlingham writes:
> don't ask why i'm reading christian (by which they seem to mean born-
> again protestant) bloggers these days, just look at this paragraph
> from a comment on one:
> I guess what I’m getting at here is (and here’s the big can of worms)
> that American churches have become cooperate. Churches, whether any of
> us want to admit it or not, are cooperate, even down to the suits and
> ties. In the cooperate world, degrees get jobs. It’s the same in the
> church. Bible colleges must exist to fulfill the road the churches
> quit fulfilling generations ago. When the church went cooperate (which
> I will argue really started happening in the 90’s, but that’s another
> discussion), a “Timothy” could not get a job without a Bible College
> degree. Thus, people go to Bible college for 2 reasons: learn the
> Bible, and to get a job.
> i guess not really a typo, as it's a consistent misspelling. i cannot
> read it without giggling.

> if you do a google search on {"become cooperate"}, google asks if you
> mean "become corporate".
> i wondered at first if the original example was from an r-less speaker
> (and it might have been), but now i see that the spelling almost
> surely originates (for r-ful speakers) in "r-dissimilation" (dropping
> one [r] in words with more than one -- usually the first one) -- a
> topic we talked about here not too long ago, in particular in
> connection with its application in "surprise" and
> "infrastructure" (and with reference to a paper by Nancy Hall on the
> subject).  so "corporate" loses its its first [r], and the question is
> how to spell the result. "coporate" and "coperate" are not existing
> spellings, but the second is very close to the existing
> "cooperate" (which of course has a pronunciation different in a number
> of respects from "corporate").

Of course, it could also be a Cupertino*, if a spellchecker suggests
replacing "corperation" with "cooperation" instead of "corporation".
Both candidates have an edit distance of 1 from the input, so the
ordering of suggestions could go either way.

* "Cupertino"  = 'spellchecker-enabled miscorrection'. So called
because early spellcheckers would replace "cooperation" with
"Cupertino", since their word lists only had hyphenated
"co-operation". Current spellcheckers all have unhyphenated
"cooperation", which ironically might be causing the trouble here.

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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