A mate recently asked me about the difference between ‘recurrence’ and ‘reoccurrence’. He firmly believed that ‘reoccurrence’ was ugly (I tend to agree) and that recurrence should be used instead.
Although my initial thought was that he was right. I was ready to get on my soapbox and demand that ugly words like ‘reoccurrence’ (and to a lesser extent ‘bewigged’) be defenestrated. However, I dug a little deeper and found a subtle difference.
Both appear in the Oxford English with essentially the same definition. The only difference being that recur mentions the word ‘periodic’.
Recur – verb (recurs, recurring, recurred)
occur again periodically or repeatedly:
“when the symptoms recurred, the doctor diagnosed something different.”
Reoccur – verb (reoccurs, reoccurring, reoccurred)
occur again or repeatedly:
“ulcers tend to reoccur after treatment has stopped.”
The difference is subtle, but with the definition of ‘recur’ (the inclusion of periodically) you can infer that a recurrence happens more than once, whereas a ‘reoccurrence’ might only be a once off repeat.
Although it seems to me that they can be used pretty much interchangeably (noting the subtle difference) there is a perception that reoccur is incorrect and ugly, and so might be avoided in formal documentation.
That’s how I see it anyway.
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It seems to me that we are going about this the wrong way.
There are so many people in the world mistyping the word “the” as “teh” that the good monkeys at autotype automatically correct it for you. Think of the number of times this word is mistyped per hour across the globe. I don’t know but I’m going to estimate: a gazillion. Every one of those gazillion (approximate) times people type ‘teh’ a little chip in their computer goes whirrrr and the ‘teh’ magically becomes ‘the’. Wow. Fabulous. Amazing. The future is now.
But unfortunately… the future is now. That means we don’t really have any trees left, and our baby seals are being clubbed to death, and the Gulf of Mexico looks like chocolate pudding and smells a bit like the Queen. Our environment is dying/not at all well.
The solution – Get rid of the automatic correction and adopt ‘teh’ as an alternative definite article. Obvious conundrum – ‘alternative’ and ‘definite’ kind of contradict each other. To the point that if alternative walked in on definite in the shower, existence would be sucked into a cataclysmic astrological quagmire and all that green tea I drank would be for nothing.
But think about it… if we accepted ‘teh’ in place of ‘the’ we could prevent the gazillion computers going whirr a gazillion times an hour, surely that must prevent some significant bagful of CO2 entering the atmosphere.
Now who’s with me?
Note – Number of times during the writing of this article where I wrote the word ‘teh’ only to have the computer automatically correct it to ‘the’ which I then had to change back to ‘teh’: eight (8).