Preventive / preventative

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Preventive / preventative

Post by Archived Topic » Fri Jan 04, 2002 2:27 am

Both the OED and Webster give "preventative" as an alternative form for "preventive", the main entry being under the latter. My own gut-feeling is that "preventative" is only widespread in the UK. A quick Google search for the phrases "prevent(at)ive maintenance" and "prevent(at)ive medicine" appear to show only a slight preference for "preventative" in the UK. Any feelings, comments, trends, relevant wisdom of other sorts?

Phil W. 14 September, 2004
Submitted by Phil White (Munich - Germany)
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Preventive / preventative

Post by Archived Reply » Fri Jan 04, 2002 2:41 am

Phil! Do an Archives search. You'll find this was covered in Jan 04 and may sate your desires regarding this word.

Leif
Reply from Leif Thorvaldson (Eatonville - U.S.A.)
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Preventive / preventative

Post by Archived Reply » Fri Jan 04, 2002 2:56 am

Phil, In case you are not sated, here is the new and improved version of my now wildly outdated response of Jan. 2004. (<:)

Very interesting question, and as I previously mentioned (‘preventative’ posting #5498), I was barely aware that there were two different words and I have probably used both. But your question got me to thinking if perhaps geography had something to do with a preference or a propensity to use one over the other. So I began to take a second look and found several new discussions, one of which is that of Fowler/Burchfield and they claim that the usage is geography-independent.
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Fowler’s Modern English Usage (3rd edition, 1998)

PREVENTIVE / PREVENTATIVE: Both words entered the language in the 17th century and they both have been fighting it out ever since. Both are acceptable formations, and the most that can be said is that the shorter form is the more frequent of the two (approximately 5:1 if computer printouts can be taken to be certain guides) [[note: my Google search just gave me ~3.3:1, so preventative is gaining strength]] and is the one recommended here for most contexts. An extensive search in the electronic databases available to me showed that the distribution of the two words is not governed by geography or subject, except to say that the word that follows is fairly likely ‘medicine,’ ‘care,’ ‘maintenance,’ ‘measure,’ or ‘detention,’ or words closely related to any of these.

[[note: It is interesting that in 1965 Fowler includes ‘preventative’ among several examples of “needless lengthening of established words due to oversight or caprice.”]] He must not have looked in the OED (see quotes below). And he certainly changed his tune by the late 1990s!]]
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But you can tell from the not-so-subtle cues that some folks really don’t like the extra syllable.

Garner’s Modern American Usage (2003)

PREVENTIVE / PREVENTATIVE: The strictly correct form is ‘preventive’ (as both noun and adjective), though the corrupt form with the extra internal syllable is unfortunately common. [[I wonder how he determined which was ‘strictly correct.’ My search in the OED found that both have been used consistently since the mid-1600s (see below).
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Writer’s Guide and Index to English (1982) by Ebbitt and Ebbitt

PREVENTIVE vs. PREVENTATIVE: Unless you are being paid by the letter ‘preventive’ is preferable in every way.”
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But, in the name of economy, I think, that the best advice is the following:

Woe Is I by O’Connor (2003)

PREVENTATIVE: The extra syllable isn’t wrong, but it is unnecessary. Use PREVENTIVE. “Always use sunscreen as a preventive measure.”

[note: But economy shouldn’t always be the sole guide. Some words are just hard to say without the extra syllable (e.g. ‘cultivatable’ for ‘cultivable’) and could it be that some word are dropped due to linguistic chauvinism? – they just don’t sound like good old English (e.g. ‘extemporaneous’ for ‘extempore’). But if one were writing a poem about car maintenance and had to rhyme with ‘augmentative’ one should definitely consider ‘preventative.’ (<:)]
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<1639 “A PREVENTIVE war, grounded on a just fear of an invasion, is lawful.”—‘Holy War’ (1840) by Fuller. I. ix. page 15> [[Hey. That’s almost the Dubya Doctrine! Except his trigger would have to be something far more substantial – like maybe a possibility of a chance of one of our foreign oil spigots being turned off! (<:)]]

<1654-66 “All PREVENTATIVE thoughts of hostility were silenced.”—‘Parthenissa, a Romance’ (1676) by Earl of Orrery, page 581>
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Ken – September 14, 2004




Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)
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Preventive / preventative

Post by Archived Reply » Fri Jan 04, 2002 3:10 am

Ken, the reason why Garner calls 'preventive' the 'strictly correct form' lies in its Latin origin: It comes from 'praevenire' (past participle 'praeventus'). As far as I know, there's no verb 'praeventare,' whose past participle would be 'praeventatus,' if it did exist. On the other hand, 'augmentative' comes from Latin 'augmentare,' 'demonstrative' comes from 'demonstrare' etc.. Frequent use does not necessarily make a wrong form right. It just makes it popular. See 'irregardless.'
Reply from Hans Joerg Rothenberger (Walenstadt - Switzerland)
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Post by Archived Reply » Fri Jan 04, 2002 3:25 am

Hans, I can now understand why Garner calls ‘preventive’ the strictly correct form. But I’ll have to disagree with you that that frequent use doesn’t make a wrong form right – I think that is exactly how the English language has evolved and is evolving and is why almost no one, at least that I know, believes in a prescriptivist approach to language – that’s just not the way it works or has worked. I can’t imagine how many volumes a list of incorrect forms that have become ‘right’ would fill. In fact if “incorrect forms” were not incorporated into the English language we would probably still be speaking Latin. (<:)

Ken – September 14, 2004



Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)
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Preventive / preventative

Post by Archived Reply » Fri Jan 04, 2002 3:39 am

Lief, I did do an archive search... on "preventive". Didn't occur to me to look for the other form as well.
As you may have gathered from most of my questions, I'm generally more interested in a cross-section of opinion on actual practice than I am in the opinions of grammarians and lexicographers with a natural and understandable tendency towards conservatism, if not prescriptivism. Ken is, of course, right. Whether we like it or not, usage dictates what is right or wrong. Clear, comprehensible speech and writing are always right.
Phil W. 15 September, 2004
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Preventive / preventative

Post by Archived Reply » Fri Jan 04, 2002 3:53 am

Ken, of course I basically agree with you. Languages - not only English - evolve mainly by incorporating little changes that initially are sort of wrong and then gradually get accepted. There's nothing bad about such, apart from disagreements between students and teachers and apart from the fact that words of the same origin can take on completely different meanings in different languages.
However, in the case of 'preventative,' that form pretends to be Latin, i.e. with both its prefix and ending it looks as if it had been there already in Latin ('praeventativus'). However, that is not true, and that is what I object against.
Again a bit off-topic, similar objections apply to 'irregardless,' mentioned above in my previous posting. Actually it would be the opposite of 'regardless' - see 'regular' vs. 'irregular,' 'rational' vs. 'irrational' etc., but it is used as if it were a synonym. Call me a purist, but in my opinion the use of 'irregardless' in the sense of 'regardless' is downright wrong, regardless of its frequent use, especially in American English. ;)
By the way, Ken, do you have info on why 'beauty' + 'full' became 'beautiful,' while 'every' + 'body' didn't become 'everibody'? Ok, again digressing...
Reply from Hans Joerg Rothenberger (Walenstadt - Switzerland)
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Post by Archived Reply » Fri Jan 04, 2002 4:08 am

Hans, This does not answer ‘why,’ but here are some patterns that appear to generally apply, although they are not hard and fast rules and I have already found exceptions:

If a word is the fusion of two words (the first ending in ‘y’) that appear in normal order (e.g. the adjective preceding the noun it modifies) then retain the ‘y’ (e.g. assemblyman, bellyache, bullyboy, busybody, everybody, funnyman, ponytail, sunnyside up, teenybopper).

If a base word ends in a consonant + ‘y’ and one tacks on any suffix with the exception of ‘-ing’ (e.g. –al, –ed, -er, -est, -ful, -ing, -iance, -iage, -ly, -ment, -ness, -ous, . . .), then the ‘y’ is changed to an ‘i.’ (e.g. appliance, beautiful, burial, business, dutiful, emptied, easily, envious, fanciful, furious, glorious, happily, happiness, marriage, merciful, merriment, mysterious, perfidious, pitiful, plentiful, prettiest, replied, studious, supplier, worrisome).

If, on the other hand, the base word ends in a vowel + ‘y,’ it appears that the base word doesn’t ‘usually’ change (e.g. cageyness, conveyed, delayed, destroyed, employment, joyous, priceyness, portrayed). Of course, ‘pricier’ and ‘priciest’ would not follow the usual pattern.

Ken – September 21, 2004



Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)
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Preventive / preventative

Post by Archived Reply » Fri Jan 04, 2002 4:22 am

Ken, many thanks. Of course there are exceptions. There's no language without exceptions, but I think your rules are quite usable. It seems my use of English is based on visual patterns rather than on applying rules, so I never actually tried to figure out rules. Anyway, in some instances they may come in handy.
Reply from Hans Joerg Rothenberger (Walenstadt - Switzerland)
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