My first sighting was in a report from a tech volunteer in the Astrodome in Houston, quoted on BoingBoing.
There are plenty of issues that need to be discussed, but the evacuees are keeping the area very clean and equilaterally said they were happier to be in the Astrodome than stuck in the Superdome or elsewhere in New Orleans.
It looked like a straightforward malaprop to me, substituting equilaterally for equally; on IRC, “lemondor” suggested unequivocally, which is sensible here, but would be quite a stretch, I thought.
But things get more complicated. The search engines turn up a number of rogue examples for equilateral(ly) (more for the adverb than for the adjective). Some, while sounding dodgy to me, occur in texts about either geometry or the spatial distribution of objects, so I’ll leave them aside. One seems to be of a type similar to the BoingBoing cite, meaning equally (or simply also):
- The lyrics are smarmy, postulated and camp; the beats are bombastic, extraneous and processed; the entire album is equilaterally void of any substance (save for deep irony) yet brims with sincerity.
The largest group is made up from examples that appear to mean something close to equitable/ly, sometimes in the sense of uniform(ly), or in equal proportions; and some might be informed by bilateral(ly) and multilateral(ly). And in the original BoingBoing example, a sense like across the board would fit as well.
- “If they’re going to enforce these laws they need to do it equilaterally,” said McGhee, “and not single out the drugs that the government’s not profiting from.”
- Banks have reduced their cost almost equilaterally across all components of ACH: Systems, Operational Labor, Operator Fees, and Other Operational Costs.
- Community action is appropriate, but it must be equilateral. Favoritism will only exacerbate the problem.
- Again, I have no problem with each having their own opinion, but one must be equilateral in addressing all aspects of such ‘destructive’ behaviour.
- A case in point is Alaska, where after incredible sums of oil money were pumped equilaterally into the schools to make even the smallest technologically modern, students from small and large schools revealed no achievement disparity (Kleinfeld and others, 1985).
- The AVA® mathematical formula discerns this increased value and apportions it equilaterally to all the property, including that which is held under option.
- These rights and privileges aren’t given to us by a government, they are protected by it. It would be nice to see such protection equilaterally applied.
- The group will operate autonomously and all decisions will be dispersed equilaterally.
- To avoid hurt feelings when a guest list is limited, subdivide the groupings across the board. For example, if numbers are limited, you could invite all aunts and uncles and forgo cousins. Then stick to categories equilaterally, treating each list as a whole.
In one rather turgid example, equilaterally appears to mean something like by equal amounts on both ends; or maybe not:
- Data collection for a 12 week period beginning in week 48 i.e. beginning of December is questionable when the 21 st December is the midpoint of the season. Would the results be significantly different if the data was extracted for a 12 week period with the 21 December being the midpoint of the data collection period? The extension of the phase as cited in the study from 16 to 20 weeks equilaterally for unspecified factors should cover the winter months comprehensively and would therefore be better
collected from the beginning of week 40?
Others are even more obscure:
- Now typically, one travels around the world equilaterally, but we decided that our world tour needed to traverse all extremes of the world. [hum]
- That’s why personal convictions can’t be applied equilaterally. There are some things that people just have to make a decision about and stick to it, but you can’t shove your ideas about what is right down a brother’s throat. [in the absolute?]
- The U.S. does not equilaterally equate to liberty, equality, and all things good. [automatically?]
- By equilaterally providing access to technological developments, public transportation, healthcare, and adequate water supply in order to do away with exclusion and inadequate living conditions for particular populations. [simultaneously?]
- A nation so unstable and corrupt, but so equilaterally so, it has perfectly balanced itself out so that few are ever actually attacked. [pervasively? comprehensively?]
- “We wanted a phonics program that had not only a consistent and sequential presentation of skills, but could be delivered equilaterally across our entire corrections system. It also had to be economical, computer based, and tailored to an adult population.” [scrap it altogether?]
And some don’t make any sense at all, which is not surprising because they are from spam pages that are being faithfully indexed by Google:
- Punic analytical cubism center the equilateral law student
breast feeding while on zoloft
with ultra vires repentance.
So what have we got here? A double-barrelled malapropism with the sense of equitable/ly at one end and a pompous substitute for equal(ly) — which is in turn a pompous substitute for also — at the other? A blend with multilateral(ly) and bilateral(ly) in some cases? A nascent metaphor for uniform(ly) in others?
ADDENDUM: During a discussion with Kevin Marks it occurred to me that, strangely, none of the examples sound as if the writer had been aiming for unilateral(ly).
[The picture of equilateral polygons was taken from this site.]
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