February 16, 2016
The "born" supremacy
I was reading an article today about Zika, the viral disease that's causing microcephaly in Latin America. Tragic. But I was taken by a language aspect to the article. At one point, the author writes:
Less pesticide means [...] more mosquito-born diseases. This spelling appears twice in the article, so it seems to be deliberate. There are a couple of possibilities here, I think.
One possibility is that the writer intends borne, but doesn't know how to spell it. This isn't surprising; they're homophones, after all, and born is anywhere from 20 to 50 times more common than borne, depending on which corpus you examine.
Another possibility is that the writer doesn't realize that he really means borne, i.e., the past tense of bear (mosquito-borne disaease == mosquitos bear [carry] the disease). In that case, mosquito-born is an eggcorn: an error, but one that sort of makes sense, since the disease might be "born of" mosquitos.
In edited text it doesn't show up very much. For example, the COCA database lists only one instance of mosquito-born versus 92 instances of mosquito-borne. But a Google search produces page after page of examples, so the writer here would definitely have seen other examples in print.
All in all, it's a pretty interesting error.