To dunk or not to dunk

While attending a worship service last week, I found a typo in the bulletin. I can’t help myself; it’s what I do. It was the sort of typo that is clearly created by that two-edged sword of blessing and bane, spell check.

The bulletin had directions for communion: “after receiving the bread, you may either drink from the first chalice or instinct in the second chalice.” Once I finished snickering over what it might mean to instinct in a chalice, a little linguistic red flag popped up in my mind: is it proper to use “intinct” as a verb?

After the worship service, I went on-line in search of evidence of usage. The vast majority of occurrences were typos, where “intinct” appeared instead of “instinct.” The few non-typo examples were ecclesiastical. The noun form, “intinction,” appears with far greater frequency, even in ecclesiastical texts.

Nothing remained but to turn to that arbiter of all things English, the OED, which says that the use of “intinct” as a verb is obsolete and historically associated with coloring and dyes. Ecclesiastical use of the noun form, “intinction,” is not attested until 1872. The edition of the OED I consulted was published in 1971, so the ecclesiastical resurrection of the verb form usage must be a very recent phenomenon.

This is what happens when you send English majors to a church assembly.

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