August 27, 2007

Prepositional cannibalism at Google

A nice sighting by Tim McKenzie:

I have recently started getting a trickle of spam to my previously safe gmail address. Google helpfully (and accurately) filters the spam for me, but I often check, just to make sure they got it right. Anyway, I got one today that Google apparently thought was a phishing scam, so they warned me "This message may not be from whom it claims to be. Beware of following any links in it or of providing the sender with any personal information." [emphasis added]

Fowler named this phenomenon "cannibalism" ("That words should devour their own kind is a sad fact"), as explained here.

As Tim pointed out, the impulse to omit the second preposition may be connected with the anxiety about prepositions in relative clauses that I discussed recently.

[Update -- Sridhar Ramesh contributed a link to this cartoon, with prepositional cannibalism at the bottom of the second panel:


Posted by Mark Liberman at August 27, 2007 07:55 AM