Language Pet Peeves #2: Dominate vs. dominant

As long as we’re on a roll with lamenting the decline of the English language, here’s another one of my pet peeves. The subject of this entry long has been an irritant for me, but I was spurred on to write about it by this post at University Diaries, a blog written by an English professor at George Washington University. She notes a story in The Press of Atlantic City, which confuses the verb itinerate with the adjective itinerant.

Reading Professor Soltan’s post reminded me that just today I received an e-mail from a friend (about the World Wrestling Championships currently underway in Baku, Azerbaijan) in which he misuses the verb dominate for the adjective dominant. “Say, Sparky!” you are no doubt exclaiming to yourself at this very moment. “Those are very similar errors! I wonder if there’s a pattern?”

First of all, don’t call me Sparky. Second of all, I don’t know if it’s a pattern, but as always I have a theory. And here it is: Many people mispronounce/slur the -ant endings of words, so that they are pronounced as dom-i-nit and i-tin-er-it. So when people are writing, they spell phonetically what they hear people saying, and they know they’ve seen those -ate endings before, and English spelling makes no damn sense anyway, and … bob’s your uncle.

If you ask nicely (and you stop calling me Sparky) maybe someday I’ll share my theory of how habitual reading or the lack of it during the formative years correlates to spelling ability.

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