Essentially v. for all intents and purposes

lie/lay/lain; lay/laid/laid

For All IntentsOne of my Facebook friends, a guy in my neighborhood, posted the graphic above. I’d never seen “supposably,” though I suppose I might have heard it.

But I’m fascinated by “for all intents and purposes.” Why would one say that at all these days, when you could use “essentially” or “in effect”? Let’s go to the dictionary.

“In a 1546 Act of Parliament, the phrase ‘to all intents, constructions, and purposes’ was used to convey that King Henry VIII had unlimited power to interpret laws. Apparently, the people of England took a liking to the phrase—just not the ‘constructions’ part.

“Thereafter, the phrase began appearing in legal documents and other writings in forms such as ‘to all intents’ and ‘to all intents and purposes.’ Nowadays, the latter phrase has survived—chiefly in British English—and ‘for all intents and purposes’ was popularized in American English.”

So it’s an American variation on a British Parliament concession to a monarch’s overreach of power. Got it.

“It is often mistaken as ‘for all intensive purposes’ because when spoken aloud these two phrases sound very similar. These mistakes, where incorrect words and phrases are replaced but the meaning remains the same, are known as eggcorns.”

I’d come up with my own intentional eggcorns for this phrase, just for fun. “For all in tents and porpoises,”, e.g.

As for the others

Regardless Of What You Think, ‘Irregardless’ Is A Word. That was the title of an article just this month. So irregardless, something I say intentionally as a joke to my wife, is a word. Even before the designation, it was always “a word.” Just not a very good one.

Certain phrases I just avoid. “I could care less” is one. This and the “expresso/espresso” bit both show up in Weird Al’s Word Crimes.

Googling pacifically, I found I Love My 30s, a bit from Gina Brillon: Pacifically Speaking. My spellcheck doesn’t even complain.

“I seen it” is something that I usually hear in extemporaneous speech, and it doesn’t distress me. “I’ve seen it” is what they meant, right?

Did you know that upmost is a variant of uppermost, meaning “highest in location, farthest up”? “My office is on the upmost/uppermost floor of the building.” Whereas of upmost importance suggests “highest” in a non-physical sense.

Finally, the lie/lay thing is nuts. The past tense of lie is lay. The past tense of lay is laid, which is also its past participle. Now the past participle of lie is lain, which almost no one uses at all. Let’s call the whole thing off.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

2 thoughts on “Essentially v. for all intents and purposes”

  1. I had a research student once who said “Supposably.” She spelled it right in her written work (as “supposedly,”) so I assumed it was some weird speech thing.

  2. I’ve never heard anyone say “supposably,” and I wonder why it’s in there. It was a joke on Friends years ago that Chandler was far too picky with his girlfriends, and he wondered if he had already dumped his soul mate because she says “supposably.” After he left, Joey tried it out. That is, I believe, the only time I’ve ever heard it, except when my wife and I use it as a joke (because of course we do). So I’m not sure if anyone thinks that’s a thing, but maybe people did pick up on it and thought it was fine!

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