Sunday, October 14, 2012

Eminent vs. Imminent


Christian writes:
Hi Snarky. I asked my sister to buy me this t-shirt on Zazzle and she said it would make me a walking grammar fail. I asked her why and she told me to look it up.
Your sister has saved you from public mockery, so be very grateful.

Where does this t-shirt go wrong? It mixes up eminent and imminent. These words are commonly confused, even by news editors who should know better.

Examples:

From The Washington Post:
  • “He was naked and he wasn’t an eminent danger,” she said.
From The Huffington Post:
  • Isn't the first step a full freedom from fear that necessitates an elimination of the eminent threat of violence?
From the Daily Mail (UK):
  • Eminent danger: Scientists are looking into ways to destroy large asteroids heading toward Earth.

Definitions:
  • eminent (adj.) - outstanding; of very high rank or status
  • imminent (adj.) - immediate; impending; soon to happen

Nifty Mnemonics:
  • Imminent and immediate both begin with 'imm-.' The flood poses an imminent danger, so the villagers must evacuate immediately.
  • 'His Eminence' is the traditional title for cardinals in the Roman Catholic Church. Cardinals have a high ranking in the church, just under the Pope. His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan was named Archbishop of New York by Pope Benedict XVI on February 23, 2009.

Corrections:
  • "He was naked and he wasn't an imminent danger," she said.
  • Isn't the first step a full freedom from fear that necessitates an elimination of the imminent threat of violence?
  • Imminent danger: Scientists are looking into ways to destroy large asteroids heading toward Earth.

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