I heard ‘renumeration’ (remuneration) again on the BBC R4 Today programme this morning (blog, 14 July).
I was surprised, though, to find a similar error in a recently published paperback I am reading. It is The Man who Knew Too Much, by David Leavitt, an account of the life and work of the mathematician and cryptographer Alan Turing. (I recommend it, by the way.)
Not once but twice Leavitt refers to a logical paradox which he calls Russell’s antimony.
But even those of us who didn’t do chemistry at school probably know that antimony is the name of a chemical element, the one whose atomic number is 51 and whose symbol is Sb. It is now “increasingly being used in the semiconductor industry as a dopant for ultra-high conductivity n-type silicon wafers, in the production of diodes, infrared detectors, and Hall-effect devices”.
What Russell gave his name to was properly an antinomy, a contradiction, paradox, or conflict.
I’m just a little shocked, not so much that the author of the book got this wrong (anyone can make a mistake), but that no one at Weidenfeld and Nicolson, publishers of the hardback in 2006, noticed it, no readers of the hardback brought it to the publishers’ attention, and no one at Orion/Phoenix, publishers of the 2007 paperback that I am reading, noticed it either.
The stress pattern of antinomy is antepenultimate, ænˈtɪnəmi, like that of other compounds of Greek -nomy: autonomy, economy, astronomy, taxonomy. (It’s also the usual pattern for the book of Deuteronomy in the Bible, though when I was at school our headmaster made us call it ˈdjuːtərəˌnɒmi, to bring out our awareness that this was the Second book of the Law.)
The stress pattern of antimony, on the other hand, is initial: BrE ˈæntɪməni, AmE ˈæntɪmoʊni. So it belongs in this respect with ceremony and testimony.
The Greek word for law, νόμος nómos, has a short vowel between the nasals, whereas the Latin suffix -mōni-, in caerĭmōnia and testĭmōnium, has a long one. Although the etymology of antimony is obscure, the OED traces it back as far as a medieval Latin form antimōnium, evidently assimilated to this pattern. That is ultimately the reason why these two words of such similar appearance, and which are evidently confusable, have different stressings.
An interesting footnote: the OED mentions that the French name of the element, antimoine, has been interpreted by popular etymology as meaning ‘monks’-bane’.