In its article on Google's year-end "Zeitgeist" listings of the most searched terms, BBC News reports:
The things people around the globe have in common are a strong interest in socialising and politics, according to Marissa Mayer, vice president of search at Google.
"Social networks compromised four out of the top ten global fastest-rising queries while the US election held everyone's interest around the globe," she wrote on Google's official blog.
I checked back on the Google Blog and what Mayer wrote was:
Social networks comprised four out of the top 10 global fastest-rising queries, while the U.S. election held everyone's interest around the globe.
So the BBC editors, besides changing 10 to ten and removing the comma before while, apparently also changed comprised to compromised. A fascinating miscorrection (or incorrection, if you prefer).
Of course, it's always possible that the Google Blog entry originally had compromised but then was later fixed to read comprised. That doesn't seem likely, however, since only the Beeb appears to have used the compromised wording in quoting Mayer. And of course, even if it were in the original post, the BBC editors should have caught the miswording and [sic]ed it.
This does not seem to be a spellchecker-induced Cupertino, since it's hard to imagine a spellchecker dictionary that includes compromised but not comprised. Instead I'm guessing it's an entirely human miscorrection, wherein comprised somehow looks "wrong" to the editor and is changed to compromised despite not making sense in context.
Even when spelled correctly, Mayer's usage wouldn't satisfy a lot of prescriptivists. As the American Heritage usage note explains:
The traditional rule states that the whole comprises the parts and the parts compose the whole. In strict usage: The Union comprises 50 states. Fifty states compose (or constitute or make up) the Union. Even though careful writers often maintain this distinction, comprise is increasingly used in place of compose, especially in the passive: The Union is comprised of 50 states. Our surveys show that opposition to this usage is abating. In the 1960s, 53 percent of the Usage Panel found this usage unacceptable; in 1996, only 35 percent objected.
But back to comprised/compromised. Google turns up many similar substitutions, such as when "is compromised of" appears where "is comprised of" is intended (again, using the prescriptively scorned sense). The substitution is so common that it even shows up in numerous edited books and journals on Google Book Search:
Category 5 is compromised of two types. (The Human-Computer Interaction Handbook)
The implementation is compromised of various system level components deployed at various locations within a target network. (Computer Security – Esorics 2005)
As discussed in detail in Chapter 2, the formula is compromised of three basic elements. (The Tongues of the Fathers)
More than two thirds of this list is compromised of patients awaiting renal transplantation. (Living Donor Organ Transplantation)
Her tattoo art is compromised of black ink and shading work only. (Body: Jewish Choices, Jewish Voices)
The structure of the underlying items is compromised of both forward and backward traces. (The Psychology of Learning and Motivation)
Information Lifecycle Management is compromised of the policies, processes, practices, and tools used to align the business value of information with the most appropriate and cost effective IT infrastructure. (Emerging Trends and Challenges in Information Technology Management)
This body is compromised of delegates representing theological colleges in the various states of Australia. (Theological Reflection and Education for Ministry)
The sociodemographic profile of the individual is compromised of their age, sex and socioeconomic status. (Urban Dynamics and Spatial Choice Behaviour)
Significantly, membership is compromised of senior staff including the international students' counsellor, teachers of English as second language and senior staff. (Worlds of Learning)
And so on and so forth. Any thoughts on why this substitution is so commonplace? Is a malapropism giving way to a new sense of compromise?
[Update, 1 pm EST: BBC News has already changed it back to comprised in their online article. The wording with compromised can still be found on blogs that copied the BBC article, such as here and here, as well as this article from PC