Wednesday, March 09, 2005



Google reveals a fair number of hits for ephemoral, and I saw this mistake even in so careful a writer as Hal Borland, Hill Country Harvest (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1967), p. 365:
But there is something about the delicacy of a snowflake, the fineness of filigree beyond the craft of the best human artisan, that catches and holds my wonder. Besides, a snowflake is both fragile and ephemoral. If I so much as put my finger on it, it begins to vanish. One breath from my warm lungs can turn this incredibly intricate crystal into a prosaic droplet of water.
I'd give Borland the benefit of the doubt and wager it was just a typographical error, but ephemoral seems to be a not uncommon mistake for ephemeral.

Knowledge of the etymology of a word is sometimes, though not always, a guide to its correct spelling. In the case of ephemeral, it is. The word comes from the Greek preposition epi (with many meanings, one of which is for) and the noun hemera (day). Something that is ephemeral lasts for a day, or a short time.

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