16 July 2005


Not sure if this link will work, but it's to an article I found on Yahoo by AP Sports Writer Jerome Pugmire. The article describes memorials to Fabio Casartelli, a cyclist who died 10 years ago in a crash during the Tour de France and who was a teammate of Lance Armstrong at the time.

Not that I wasn't struck by the sadness of it all, but I also noted a little linguistic quibble towards the end:

When Armstrong visits Casartelli's grave, he does so alone, shielding and preserving the intimacy.

"I tend to not be public about it. When I go to Italy and visit the graveside, I don't have a press conference," Armstrong said. "It's a private, personal visit between me and him."

Graveside was news to me; I'd always thought gravesite was the word. Three possibilities: (a) Armstrong has used some sort of eggcorn, (b) Armstrong was misquoted, (c) I'm wrong about the word.

The misquoting option is highly likely; in Armstrong's accent, graveside and gravesite are likely to be near homonyms, with the vowels in the second syllable being identical for both quality and length.

My wrongness is also highly possible. Google returns the following numbers of pages:
grave_side, 465K
graveside, 435 K
grave_site, 745K (Curiously, Number 2 is Diefenbaker's)
gravesite, 256 K

Grave_site also registers "did you mean: gravesite". And graveside gets a link to "definition: graveside". Turns out Google uses Answers.com as its dictionary, which in turn uses Houghton-Mifflin as its source. Gravesite and graveside are both there (adjacently), but only the -side form nets a definition link from a Google search. I don't have access to OED from here, so can't use it to corroborate.

For the curious, gravesight appears 933 times, sometimes apparently intentionally.


At Sat Jul 16, 11:34:00 AM 2005, Blogger language said...

Huh. I was surprised to find graveside is the "official" word; the OED has it from the early 19th century:
1838 J. L. STEPHENS Trav. Greece, etc. 27/1 The Greeks returned, and, taking up the body, carried it to the grave-side.
1865 MRS. WHITNEY Gayworthys xix. (1879) 172 How many a heart has felt that graveside solemnity.

Gravesite is in the 1993 Additions, dating first from 1953 (a US Army publication). Who knew?


At Sat Jul 16, 06:28:00 PM 2005, Blogger Bob Kennedy said...

Thanks, Hat, for checking on that - I'm away from my campus OED subscription at the moment. But I know those Google numbers were too big to ignore.


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