I love the current side view theme. It deals with something which could well fit under the heading of fantasy, and fantasy is something I tend to indulge in a lot (who would have noticed?). 

          However, it also invites me to pounce gleefully on a modern misconception regarding the word ‘alternate’. The actual meaning is, in effect, to skip between one condition and another. Thus you can alternate between hot and cold, or joy and depression, or red and blue outfits. 

          An ‘alternate reality’ would mean one that is entered into periodically in between living in the ‘normal’ reality. Thus one could say that C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books deal with an alternate reality, as the protagonists enter it from their own and then return to their own.

          However, Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ does not fit into that category. The latter, correctly, would be described as ‘an alternative reality’, which is ‘available as another possibility or choice’ (OED).

          ‘Alternate’ has been accepted in America to have the latter meaning as well (to my regret, because it limits precision), but elsewhere it is simply not correct in that sense.

          Books written from a historical perspective which postulate a change in the events which made up the course of history at that time should also, correctly, be known as ‘alternative history’ rather than ‘alternate history’.

          *meerkat blocks ears against the streams of invective bound to follow*

© Colonialist Jan 2012 (Letterdash/WordPress)

About colonialist

Active septic geranium who plays with words writing fantasy novels and professionally editing, with notes writing classical music, and with riding a mountain bike, horses and dinghies. Recently Indie Publishing has been added to this list.
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  1. Nicola says:

    Great post and I like the distinction drawn. Technology seems to increase the confusion between your identity in alternate environments and identity in an alternative one


  2. adinparadise says:

    Hi there Col. Glad to see that you’re educating more than just us Letterdashions. 😉


    • colonialist says:

      I have been duplicating posts here for some time. That is going to make things a bit confusing when the change comes, but what the heck. I started doing it when there was no hint of a move.


  3. Patti says:

    I love English lessons. No invective from this quarter. (Besides, I would never abuse a meerkat – they are my favorite zoo animals.) I think part of the misuse of “alternate” might be due to the fact that “alternative” has taken on a very particular meaning, as when it is paired with “lifestyle”, making people hesitant about throwing it about too lavishly.


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