Jan 7, 2011

Imminent, eminent, or immanent?

I read a blog article on the "eminent" release of the iPad 2. Is there a problem here? While the iPad is an eminent tablet device, no doubt, the correct word choice should have been "imminent."

The two words are understandably confusing since the difference in meaning relies on the placement of an "e" or an "i."

Imminent simply means "coming soon," or, "on the way," as in the phrase, "the imminent demise of the laptop in a tablet crazed world."

Eminent (one "m") means noteworthy or deserving of esteem, or recognition. Prince Charles has the eminent title of Prince of Wales.

Note there is a slight pronunciation difference. The two words are not homophones, meaning they sound alike but have different meanings. The "em" in eminent is the em sound in M&M (the last "m"). The "im" in imminent is an "im" sound as in the vowel sound in "him."

Both words, imminent and eminent, also have noun forms, imminence and eminence. So watch out for those too when they pop up. A Cardinal of the Catholic Church is called, "Your Eminence," in a formal address. Not Your Imminence.

To make it more complicated there's the word "immanent" which sounds like imminent. If something is immanent, however, it means it's "at hand."

I can say that my existence is immanent, "within reach," and not in a far-away sky out of reach.

In philosophy we use the pairing of immanent, "at hand," with "transcendent," beyond reach.

Immanent can also have a noun form, "immanence."

Got that? Eminent, imminent, and immanent.




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