Incidents or incidences?

While I am on the subject of plurals… we have noticed several people on TV recently saying incidences when they are talking about something that has happened. I think they mean to say incidents but get carried away with the importance of the moment. You often hear this kind of overly-formal speech containing made-up long words from emergency services personnel (think the local policeman or fireman) when they are called on to give a report of what happened on TV or radio. Here’s a short excerpt from a book about common errors in English usage by Paul Brians at Washington State University, where he explains the confusion between incident, incidence and instance. However he doesn’t mention this ‘interesting’ (OK, wrong) new plural form. Language change in action?

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6 responses to “Incidents or incidences?

  1. I would just like to say that I hear this mistake on TV all the time and it drives me CRAZY (almost as crazy as the CONSTANT misuse of “he/she and I” when it should be “he/she and me”). Thank you for addressing it! :)

  2. Bad example–not “he/she and me” but “Tom and me,” etc.

  3. With Tom and me. Tom and I are.

  4. I grew up with the word “resilience”, but lately, I hear sportscasters using “resiliency”, and it bugs me. It’s grammatically correct, but just like “incidences”, our media will be overrun with words like excellency, abstinency, or pestilency.

  5. I have recently heard broadcasters say what sounds like “incidences” several times. Just in the last month or so, I’m suddenly hearing it so much I had to look it up to make sure I am not misremembering the correct usage. Weird. And ironic! (More incidents, increasing incidence!)

  6. If the word occurrences can be used then incidences is correct.

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