We had an example two days ago. There had been some discussion whether the people who invaded England in 1066 are better described as ‘French’ or as ‘Normans’. Correspondents had pointed out that the two terms cannot be regarded as synonymous.
A correspondence on the letters page wrestles with the question of whether the French or the Normans invaded England in 1066, and whether there is any difference. As some contributors have pointed out, the elision of the French and the Normans is too crude.
The writer is clearly using elision here to mean something like ‘confusion, conflation, confounding’ of the two categories.
Another example of the same thing, this time involving the verb, is dated 12 April 2010 and bears the byline of Beatrix Campbell.
… towards the end of the 20th century within a single generation the numbers marrying halved, the numbers divorcing trebled, the proportion of children born outside marriage quadrupled.
Intimacy, however, did not diminish and parenting – as commitment, care and companionship – has flourished.
Yet, Tories subliminally elide these changes with the collapse of civilisation as we know it.
As far as I can see, no dictionary includes this meaning. Every dictionary I can lay hands on defines elision as ‘omission’ or words to that effect, particularly the omission of a vowel or syllable, or sometimes of a passage in a text. Correspondingly, to elide is to omit a vowel or syllable by elision.
1. The action of dropping out or suppressing: a. a letter or syllable in pronunciation; b. a passage in a book or connecting links in discourse. Also, an instance of either of these. Also fig.
That is how we use the term in phonetics, as when we refer to the possible elision of the t in next when we say the next day ðə ˈneks ˈdeɪ, or of the h in him when we say I’ve seen him aɪv ˈsiːn ɪm. (Contrary to my borrowed illustration above, you can’t elide the final t in night naɪt, though you can make it glottal, naɪʔ.)
See also the blog entry for 7 May 2010.
I consulted the Guardian in the person of my former student David Marsh, author of the Guardian’s Style Guide. He replied
In answer to your question, it is the journalist (and editors/subeditors) who don't know the meaning of the word, which still means (or should mean) what you understand it to mean.
Four centuries ago, the OED reveals a different misuse of the term. In 1626 Bacon, in an early debate about the mechanism of speech production, criticized another writer (Boyle?) for attributing sound to ‘elision of the air’.
The Cause given of Sound, that it should be an Elision of the Air (whereby, if they mean anything, they mean Cutting or Dividing, or else an Attenuating of the Air) is but a Terme of Ignorance.
Let’s have no more Termes of Ignorance in the Guardian or anywhere else.