Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Thu Jun 13 16:20:56 UTC 2013

On Jun 10, 2013, at 7:47 AM, "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET> wrote:

> Now that we have two, mirror-image examples (this
> plus my earlier "imminent domain"), should the
> pair of the Subject line go into the eggcorn database?
> Joel
> At 6/9/2013 02:19 PM, Dan Goodman wrote:
>> Content-Transfer-Encoding: 8bit
>> From Twitter:
>> BringMeTheNews ‏@BringMN
>> With cigarette tax eminent, sales catch fire as smokers stock up to save
>> bucks http://dlvr.it/3V4HPv

i should have said this right away: "eggcorn" is not just another name for "spelling confusion" or "word confusion".  the MWDEU entry on "eminent, imminent" treats "eminent" for "imminent" as a word confusion (or possibly just a spelling confusion):

Almost all books on usage include a warning about confusion of _eminent_ and _imminent_ (occasionally the much less used word _immanent_ is included for good measure). The meanings are actually quite distinct:  _eminent_ means “prominent” (as in “an eminent author”); _imminent_ means “soon to occur, impending” (as in “imminent danger”). Use of one word in place of the other is now extremely rare in edited prose, but it does seem to occur from time to time in writing that has not been so closely scrutinized (as in a quiz given several years ago to aspiring emergency medical technicians, which included a question about the proper course of action with a pregnant woman when “the birth is eminent”). Such confusion appears to have been somewhat more common in the past:

  The eminent Danger I had been in –Daniel Defoe, _A Journal of the Plague Year_, 1722 (OED)

and in the "imminent" entry it says:

_Imminent_ in the past has been spelled _eminent_..., but the spelling is now avoided as an error. It was denounced as long ago as Baker 1770. He blamed it on the French.

the entry in Brians is briefer and lacks the historical material, but is similar in content.  i can see no semantic motivation for "eminent danger" and similar examples, so i wouldn't enter such examples in the ecdb.

"imminent domain" is different.  Brians explains the background of "eminent" in the legal term:

When a government exercises its power over private property it is drawing on its eminent status in society, so the proper legal phrase is “eminent domain.”

but for most people "eminent" makes no sense in this phrase, though "imminent" can be rationalized (and in addition, many American speakers have "eminent" pronounced identically to "imminent"), so for some speakers "imminent domain" probably represents an eggcornish reshaping of the legal phrase.  but otherwise it looks like we're dealing with a spelling confusion that turns on the similarity in the pronunciations of the two words -- and not an eggcorn.


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