But the truth is we actually picked him up hitchhiking. It was a complete and utter coincident.
with coincident for coincidence. This is far from an isolated example, so we have to conclude that this is a reanalysis, perhaps an eggcornish one based on the existing word coincident and encouraged by the possibility of final cluster simplification in English (in this case, the simplification of final [ts] to [t]).
A few more examples, all of “complete coincident”:
I came across the WWF Internship/Volunteer program by a complete coincident, after graduating university in 2009 the financial crises was making it challenging to say the least to find a job. (link)
“Dude, that looks like Sandra, are you telling me that it’s a complete coincident that the little girl painting looks like your daughter?” (link)
It must be a complete coincident that this topic appears in the cheaters desk (link)
I’ve caught her looking at me a couple of times, but obviously this could have been a complete coincident. (link)
Six Apart, makers of MovableType, have acquired a European blogging company. As a complete coincident (riiiight) they have a whole new set of executives from the ranks of their venture capital funding companies, and Mena Trott is ‘stepping down’ as CEO. (link)
The most common instances of final cluster simplification are of “t/d deletion” (as in las’ night and ol’ man), which has been repeatedly discussed on Language Log and this blog. Here’s Mark Liberman in 2010 on bake goods:
Although t/d deletion is stigmatized, in fact all normal English speakers do it some of the time, at least in some contexts. As a result, fixed expressions that start out as participle+noun are sometimes re-analyzed so as to lose their -ed ending. This happened long ago to ice(d) cream, skim(med) milk, pop(ped) corn [AMZ: might be dubious], wax(ed) paper, shave(d) ice, etc. It’s happened more recently (I think) to ice(d) tea, cream(ed) corn, and whip(ped) cream.
Final cluster simplification affects consonants other than t/d on occasion, and sometimes the phonological reduction leads to reanalysis, as in the oft-reported reduction of desk to des’, which (for some speakers) leads to desses as the plural (parallel to test > tes’, with tesses as the plural of the reanalyzed noun).
Reduction of [nts] (~ [ns]) to [nt] is a new one for me, but there it is in coincident.
I did look at some other -ence words, but the only one I found with a reasonably frequent -ent variant was consequence, as in these examples:
A final comment in the article speaks to some banks’ strategy to keep under the $10B regulatory threshold which is another unintended consequent of Durbin, fewer big bank mergers. (link)
However, in the social sector where funding and technical resources can be scarce, customized implementations that compromise upgradeability often have the unintended consequent of raising the total cost of system ownership. (link)
The FDA panel voted to approve the drug for the treatment of the other malady discovered as an unintended consequent. (link)
This case isn’t as clear as coincident, because not only does a noun consequent exist (as well as an adjective), the noun has some history (according to the OED) of being used as a synonym for consequence.
Maybe there are some other -ent for -ence examples out there. We can always hope.