Although I posted on this on ADS-L earlier today, I thought that maybe in honor of the U.S. elections on Tuesday it would be entertaining to post a version of it here. The usage in question is the verbs early/absentee vote (not vote early/absentee).
From Language Log reader Drew Ward to me a few days ago:
This month I have been hearing formations such as “John early voted today.” (local news) or “Many more people this year have decided to early vote.” (CNN)
Today I also heard this trend being applied to absentee voting with a local news station following up a story on early voting with “You can also absentee vote this week.” Whereas in the past I know I’ve always
heard “vote absentee” or “vote by absentee ballot”.
There are lots of google hits for "to early vote" and "early voted", a few for "to absentee vote" and "absentee voted". (Plus, I now see, some for "to advance vote" etc.):
"To early vote":
Thousands line up to early vote. Submitted by ryanteaguebeckwith on October 17, 2008 (link)
Some people in Clayton County are standing in line for four hours just to early-vote." (link)
Oct 28, 2008 … We early voted friday.. whew… I was relieved.. and felt proud as well for my vote choice… (link)
I Early Voted for Barack Today! by Arkieboy. Mon Oct 27, 2008 at 01:11:38 PM PDT . My wife kicked me out of the house today. Told me to go hang out in the … (link)
"To absentee vote":
Sep 25, 2008 … "This will be my third year to absentee vote," Gnidovec said. (link)
How to absentee vote in Louisiana. Posted Sep 7th 2007 10:00AM by Mike Schleifstein (link)
Nov 1, 2008 … If you have absentee voted already stop in and say hi. (link)
A double header:
Oct 29, 2008 … Have you either early voted or absentee voted in the 2008 Election? Yes. No. Other (Tell us below!) (link)
These formations look to me not like an unusual placement of the modifiers early and absentee, but rather like back-formations from early/absentee voting/voter. The results seem to function as a lexical units (note the hyphenated early-vote example).
For early vote, there's a clear advantage to having such a unit, since vote early could refer to voting early on election day, while early vote refers specifically to institutionalized procedures for voting before election day.
(I posted on Language Log a little while ago about a somewhat different back-formation, namely to gay marry, with the verb back-formed from gay marriage.)
[11/3/08: more back-formed verbs from our readers. From Keith Ivey, to offshore drill (John McCain in August: "We need to offshore drill for oil and natural gas."). From Adam Sontag, to underage drink ("No one has the rest of their lives to underage drink").]