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Henry Martini08 Sep 2019 3:15 a.m. PST

One gets accustomed to seeing it constantly misused online and in texts, but how did that word make it onto the cover of a professionally-published book? It should be '… Alternative History…'. The noun 'alternate' means 'every other'.

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian08 Sep 2019 10:13 a.m. PST

Wikipedia claims "alternative history" is the Commonwealth English form: link

Henry Martini08 Sep 2019 3:22 p.m. PST

Noun? Whoops! Typing too late at night; 'alternate' in that context is, of course, an adjective.

I believe that Greenhill Books is a British company, Bill. Also, note that the US website,, has the meaning as I've stated. On the other hand, Webster's dictionary, which is commonly regarded as the standard US authority, has meaning 4 of 5 meanings for 'alternate' as: an… alternative… to 'alternative', but I understand that that entry only came about after its grammarians caved in to popular ignorance.

Cerdic08 Sep 2019 9:11 p.m. PST

Alternative = a different option

Alternate = to take turns

It's not rocket science…

Henry Martini09 Sep 2019 4:40 p.m. PST

The meanings you've given, Cerdic, are for 'alternative' as a noun and 'alternate' as a verb (with the emphasis on the first syllable). These meanings are distinct and separate; you'd never see in print the phrases 'he had no alternate', or 'they agreed to alternative on sentry duty' for instance.

Both words are also adjectives, as in the instance we're discussing here (in the case of 'alternate', with the emphasis shifted to the second syllable), and it's only with this usage that the confusion occurs.

Cerdic09 Sep 2019 11:09 p.m. PST

I've given the British English usage.

The history is a different history. It is therefore an alternative, as you quite rightly pointed out!

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