Jessica Mason Pieklo, "Texas GOP Considers Turning State Into Tax Dodge Over Contraception Mandate", RH Reality Check 1/30/2013 (emphasis added):
To be considered constitutional, a state tax generally cannot discriminate against interstate commerce. Broadly speaking, the Supreme Court has taken that to mean that any tax which, by its terms or operations, imposes greater burdens on out-of-state goods, activities, or enterprises than on any competing in-state goods, activities or enterprises violates the Commerce Clause and will be struck down. The basic logic of this conclusion is pretty clear—states shouldn't be able to simply preference their own industries at the expense of others if those industries touch or are part of national commerce.
Is this use of "preference" as a verb commonplace? It didn't sound right to my ear. We already have the verbs "prefer" and "show preference".
In COCA, the lemma preference (in all its forms) occurs 12,036 times in 464 million words, for an overall frequency of 25.94 per million. But I could only find four examples of preference used as a verb, which would be less than 1 per 100 million words — and three of the four come from one speaker (Dr. Stephen Schneck, interviewed by Bill O'Reilly):
Well, actually Bill, as you pointed out, Catholics are obliged to preference the poor in regards to public policy. And if you look over the speaker's record, it seems to me that in fact over the years he hasn't been preferencing the poor in regards to public policy.
If I could go back to another point, I would like to point out that from the perspective of Catholic social teachings, the government has a responsibility to step in to preference the poor when, in fact, private measures aren't sufficient to care for that.
There were reports of Google penalizing those nascent competitors, of Google preferencing its own sites that competed.
So the verbal form of preference does exist, but it's certainly not very common. In the original example, though, neither prefer nor show preference to would quite work: "states shouldn't be able to simply preference their own industries at the expense of others". The commerce clause doesn't forbid states from "preferring" their own industries, it just prevents them from acting in certain ways on such preferences. And I presume that many forms of "showing preference to" local industries are also permitted — say including them in an exhibit at the state capitol, or sending a delegation to help sell them overseas.
Update — A quick survey of Google Scholar hits for preferencing suggests that this is primarily a term of art in finance, accounting, economics, etc., with a minor extension into sociology. (Though perhaps theology is not adequately represented in the Google Scholar index…)
Update #2 — KP sent this:
Today's "Ask Language Log: preference as a verb" really caught my attention, so I posted my thoughts and followed up with one of the speakers you featured, Stephen Schneck. Feel free to post his response (excerpted below) if you think readers will find it useful:
In the standard English terminology of Catholic social teachings is the "preferential option for the poor." If I had been more careful in my on air speech, I would probably have said "Catholics are obliged to give preference to the poor" and similarly in the other passages. That said, I suspect that a search of Catholic social justice literature could turn up other uses of "preference" as a verb, since such usage falls more easily from the tongue than cumbersome constructions about a "preferential option."
What a fascinating field of study!