Sunday, April 26, 2009

Im vs. Em

The dh asked me yesterday-- yes, this is the sort of thing he knows I like to talk about-- when to use "imbed" and when to use "embed".

Well, I thought I knew. And in fact, my reasoning is quite good. And if google didn't exist, no one would ever know that I was... well. Not wrong. I think of myself as before my time. In centuries to come, I will be regarded as a prophet.

Here's my answer:

IMbed is transitive: I imbed the tulip bulb in the garden soil. (What? Tulip bulbs are supposed to be planted in the fall? That is crazy!)

That is, IMbed is preceded by a subject that transfers the action of imbedding to the object which gets imbedded.

(Note here: Most im-prefixed words are adjectives like IMmodest, and IM in that case means NOT. Here it means "in," and I think it was part of that big shift from harder Anglo-Saxon syllables to softer ones which are easier to pronounce-- "in" becomes "im" just because it sounds better.)

EMbedded is (or should be) intransitive, probably anticausative, where the subject is really the object of the action and the subject isn't known or extant, or it's irrelevant. That is, the word shifts from IMbed to EMbed when it becomes passive or reflexive. SO
The reporter is embedded with the troops.


Now isn't that logical?

But I checked a bunch of dictionaries-- curiosity is a terrible thing-- and they all seem to say that Embed and Imbed are the same verb, and used identically, and that EMbed is preferred.

Well. I object. I think IMbed should be transitive, and EMbed should be the intransitive or passive form. That makes a reason why there are two variants.

So let's make a note of this. When I become God, which should happen just about anyday now if I get back to doing yoga, that's on my list of things to make so. Oh, yeah, world peace, climate restoration, all that, I'll get to that. But IMBED/EMBED, first on the list.



Riley Murphy said...

Alicia: LOL! And, dare I ask? Where on this lengthy list (I know it has to be lengthy - I remember the 'tag' run down. Kind of freaked me out and broke me of the 'gr' habit) does 'closen' fall?
As for yoga? If you get back to it - you deserve to be God! I went to one class with my daughter - and it only took that single quiet evening (so, drat no swearing while you pulled a muscle) for me to realize that twister torture wasn't for me. Nope, it was for all those ethereal beauties who appeared to float and delicately wind while I fumbled and sweated like a stuck pig! So, you've got my vote for God - providing you do the time on the floor mat first. Deal?:)

Julie Harrington said...

I'll catch myself using "imbed" when I'm not paying attention to spelling. But I wonder... could Embed vs. Imbed have come about due to origin of country? One, perhaps, being the British variant vs the American preference? I didn't see anything noted like that when I went looking up the words, but I did wonder.

Edittorrent said...

JT, I came across someone saying, "It's a pondian issue," and I thought, jeez, another term I don't know. Then I figured out it means "across the pond"-- the diff between British and American English.

But apparently im-em isn't a pondian thing either!

Murph, closen is at the TOP of my list of edicts to impose. Close. IM= transitive. No torture. World peace. An end to subject-verb agreement rules, at least as regards "every". Free health care for all.
No one can say my priorities are skewed.

Babs said...

I never really thought about it - I always use 'em' - and JT, I'm from the UK so, maybe?
Murphy?! Twister torture? Brilliant!:P

Edittorrent said...

Oh, and tulip bulbs will be able to be planted in the spring.
So there.

Edittorrent said...

Closen. Em-im. And chocolate will be a miracle weight loss cure.


Edittorrent said...

Okay, I'm making a list. Requests?

Joseph said...

Flammable versus inflammable?

You can't beat the English language.

Riley Murphy said...

Alicia: I have a request...

How about for the next, oh, say ten years, there are more editors than writers. All of whom are desperate to compete with each other for available MS's.

Hey, it could happen, with a woman in charge anything is possible, right?:D

Edittorrent said...

Joseph, I wonder how many fires were started because people thought (reasonably) that "inflammable" was the opposite of "flammable!"

Anonymous said...

While you're at it, God, could you please reduce the human population and repair the damage humans have done to the earth?


MarcoP said...

I had previously assumed that "imbed" was just a misspelling. Then, looking it up, it turns out to be an acceptable variant of "embed" (but everyone overwhelmingly lists "embed" as primary). Also, I read somewhere that "imbed" is an American variant of "embed", as over time has happened with the shifting of "e" to "i" in other British words (e.g., "inquiry" vs. "enquiry").
I still much prefer "embed", though.

Anonymous said...

I learned to use the version that is not preferred, imbed, from my use of IBM Document Composition Facility, Script/VS Language, many years ago. That software uses the .im keyword to "imbed" a file and the .em keyword for something totally unrelated. I only learned of "embed" when some uninformed word processor told me that "imbed" was misspelled.

Lesson learned: don't assume that software developers know anything about human language.