Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Exerpt* (for Excerpt*)

Exerpt* is sort of an excerpt of the word excerpt, if you get my meaning. An excerpt is a part extracted from the whole. And, speaking of parts and wholes, this might be as good a time as any for me to get on my high horse and inveigh against the ubiquitous misuse of the word comprise, which means "consist of." Given that definition, you see, there can really be no sensible meaning to the all-too-common usage "comprised of" since that would have to mean "consisted of of." Here's how to remember this: the whole comprises the parts; the parts compose the whole. Okay, so back to Exerpt*, which is really more of a misspelling than a typo. The word excerpt comes from the Latin excerptus, past participle of excerpere, from ex- + carpere, meaning to gather or pluck. Its first known use is from the 15th century. It's such a common misspelling these days that a Google search on "exerpt*" returns 1,640,000 hits, or more than one misspelled search term for every hundred spelled correctly. There were 75 examples of this typo in OhioLINK and too many to count in WorldCat.

(An excerpt from The Tempest on the Berkeley Poetry Walk in Berkeley, California, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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