With the recent earthquake in Japan, an error that comes with every quake popped up in various newspapers. Another word for earthquake is temblor, which newspapers often reach for in headlines and to avoid repeating earthquake and quake over and over. (A concern that is often a bit overworried about, I think.) The mistake comes as temblor is often misspelled as tremblor. But as it turns out, tremblor is a an error that has gone on long enough to establish it as a real word, albeit an inferior one. It's easy to see where the extra r in tremblor comes from, because of the closeness to the word tremble. And in fact, temblor is the Spanish word for earthquake, but it also translates as "a trembling," according to the American Heritage Dictionary. It comes from the word temblar, which means to to shake, which itself comes from the Vulgar Latin tremulāre, from the Latin tremulus, meaning shaking.
As Garner's Modern American Usage describes it, the OED's first citation for using temblor in English is in 1876. Less than 40 years later, in 1913, tremblor appears, with the same meaning, an earthquake. The OED doesn't call this an error, but rather an "alteration of Spanish temblor, influenced by the English trembler," a trembler being "one who trembles, especially with fear." Garner describes this as a "historical double bobble":
- "A double bobble occurs when somebody reaches for a word -- in fact, the wrong word -- and then mistakes another word for that wrong word. It's a word twice removed from its correct use."
Though tremblor has appeared often enough that is has become an established word, Garner's points out that temblor "is by far the dominant form, appearing in print 100 times as often as tremblor."