or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


I promise I won't make every post for the next few weeks about The Sims (although come to think of it I've broken a lot of promises over the years), but yes, I have stumbled across another typo, and it's a good one.

"It certainly isn't something that is for the feint of heart." No, and neither is correctness in spelling and grammar.

The word "feint" exists, of course: it means "a manoeuvre designed to mislead". Doesn't it look French? It is, from "feinte", and is related, predictably, to "feign", which in turn--and you are going to like this--is related to "fiction" through Latin "fingere", "to shape, to devise, to feign". Will it astonish you to learn that "finger" is not, in fact, related to "fingere"? It would be so easy to concoct an etymology, but it would be incorrect: "finger" is from a set of Old Norse relatives (you can easily imagine the Norse-looking "fingr", and you would be correct), and these may ultimately derive from Indo-European "pengke", "five", which I am quite sure I don't need to elaborate on.

"Faint", on the other hand, comes from...exactly the same place as "feint"! To faint originally meant to get out of a job by pretending to be unwell (from French "faindre"), so the relationship to "feign" is obvious.

That's all perfectly sensible. What I can't understand is how someone might use the considerably less common, and incorrect, "feint" in place of the much commoner, and correct, "faint".


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