or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Busted Flush

It will be no surprise to all but the most casual readers that unnecessary spelling errors piss me off, but sometimes I stumble across one that I just plain like.

Here's one from Apple's Widget collection, a widget being a small program that runs in a Macintosh program called Dashboard:

This is a widget that simulates the counter in New York City: as you see the national deficit increase you can see the Social Security fund as it fluxuates against the national debt.

Honestly: isn't "fluxuate" nice? It's wrong, but it's still nice. The correct spelling is "fluctuate"; we get it from Latin "fluctus", which comes from "fluere", "to flow"--clearly the source of such words as "fluid" and "fluent", not to mention "flush" (so similar to the German word for river, "Fluß" or "Fluss"), "superfluous" (that is, "overflowing") and "influence" (something which flows into someone and causes them to act). It's tempting to speculate that other such movement-oriented "fl-" words such as "float", "flee", "flight", and "flow" are also descended from "fluere", but, amazingly, they aren't.

Anyway. "Fluxuate" is an honest enough error, since another form of "fluere" also gave rise to "flux", which is to say "something which flows", and many people pronounce "fluctuate", imprecisely, to sound like "fluxuate". ("Flux" is also the Victorian euphemism for diarrhea, logically enough.) Yes, I know I gripe about spell-checking all the time, and yes, the author should have run a spell-checker, but I can forgive such a charming error.


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