Here’s something a tad irritating (at least to me). Some weeks ago I became aware of the fact that RTE on its website kept referring to forthcoming (or not) ‘bye-elections’. Of course there is no such thing as a ‘bye-election’ (though there are ‘by-elections’ or byelections’), and as it was a slow day I sent an email to RTE pointing that out – very politely, I should emphasise. I got back a response telling me that this is how the government officially spells it, and that it was RTE policy to follow the government lead.
Of course the prefix ‘by’ refers to the subordinate or secondary nature of (in this case) the election. Another example would be ‘by-product’, which is definitely not ‘bye-product’. If there were such a thing as a ‘bye-election’, it would be a ‘good-bye election’ (not a phenomenon we have yet). I think my correspondent in RTE agreed with me, by the way (or should that be ‘bye the way’), but felt bound by existing practice.
Maybe I’m just being pedantic, but I can’t help feeling our official terminology should be less illiterate.