Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: temblor; trembler.

A “temblor” /TEM-bluhr/ is an earthquake. A “trembler” is (1) a person who shakes with fear or whose religious practices include shaking, or (2) a species of songbird. The first use of “temblor” recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary is dated 1876. That was followed in 1913 by the first recorded use of *"tremblor," labeled plausibly enough as a variant of “temblor” influenced by “trembler” — a historical double bobble. Today, “temblor” is by far the dominant form, appearing in print 100 times as often as *"tremblor." Even "trembler" appears about as often as *"tremblor" — e.g.: o “Aftershocks continued Sunday after a magnitude 5.4 tremblor [read ‘temblor’] hit three miles north of Big Bear City early Saturday morning.” “Aftershocks Still Rattle Inland Cities,” Press-Enterprise (Riverside, Cal.), 24 Feb. 2003, at B6. o “More than 135 years ago, on April 24, 1867, the Humboldt Fault triggered a 5.1-magnitude trembler [read ‘temblor’] in Wamego, 15 miles from the dam site, that toppled chimneys and cracked plaster walls.” Matt Moline, “Project to Reinforce Dam Extends Controversy of Past 50 Years,” Topeka Capital-J., 10 Nov. 2002, at B2. Although “temblor” originated as a Spanish term naturalized in English in the late 19th century, the plural is fully anglicized: “temblors.” The Spanish plural *"temblores" is listed in some dictionaries as a variant plural. Language-Change Index — “trembler” or *"tremblor" for “temblor”: Stage 1. *Invariably inferior form. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “The art of writing, like the art of love, runs all the way from a kind of routine hard to distinguish from piling bricks to a kind of frenzy closely related to delirium tremens.” H.L. Mencken, Minority Report: H.L. Mencken’s Notebooks 18 (1956).
Scroll to Top