Monday, 14 March 2016

Extraverts only need apply

I was thinking about the word extraversion today.

I often seen it spelt extro-version, which I always thought was incorrect. I checked out the Oxford English dictionary (n.d.) and they spelled it with an 'o', saying that the 'a' version was now not in common use. however they also said that the 'a' spelling was used in psychology. So if you're talking about Jung, you're going to spell extravert with an 'a'.

So I did a bit more digging. Michael Quinion, he of worldwide words fame, explored the affix 'extra-' in his book, "Ologies and Isms", which some lovely people turned into a website called Affixes. Affixes says that 'extro-' is an error in translation from the Latin: 'extra-' means outside, or beyond, coming from the Latin, extra, which means outside. Thus extraversion should be spelled with an 'a' (Affixes, n.d.).

I got to wondering why this word was often spelt incorrectly.

But all was revealed when I stumbled upon a Scientific American article by Barry Kaufmann (31 August 2015). Barry got very technical and dug back to one of Jung's original publications on psychologische typen (psychological types) in 1917, "Die Psychologie der Unbewussten Prozesse". Jung spelled outgoing people as 'extravert'.

Kaufmann found some correspondence from when Jung was asked whether this should be spelt extravert or extrovert. Jung replied that it should be "Extraverted, because Extroverted is just bad Latin" (31 August 2015). Interestingly Kaufmann went on to find that the error comes from a 1918 paper written by Phyllis Blanchard, "A Psycho-Analytic Study of August Comte", where not only does Phyllis get the spelling wrong, she also mangles the meaning (31 August 2015). A stellar screwup.

So there we have it: nearly 100 years of getting it wrong, even the OED. Extraversion.



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