Professional verbs

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Stephen Judd complains about the slogan for a New Zealand beer:

"Brewed by brewers, not chemistered by chemists".

Stephen's (reasonable) complaint is that "if it weren’t for chemists, there would be no commercial brewing". But I was more interested in the copywriter's attempt to create a verb for what chemists do to things, by a bizarre sort of chiasmic analogy: brewer:brew::chemist:chemister.

It also occurred to me that many names of occupations are agentive forms of verbs for the characteristic activity: weaver, cobbler, driver, cleaner, writer, robber, teacher, and so on. But there are some occupations, like chemist, where not only is the name not an agentive form of a verb, but in fact there's no verb at all for the characteristic activity. What a chemist does (I guess) is to apply the science and technology of chemistry to practical or theoretical problems — but there's no verb for that, no "chemicize" or "chemistrate" or whatever.

(The OED includes an obsolete verb chemic(k) meaning "To transform or transmute by alchemy", or rarely "To bleach (cotton, linen, etc.) with a solution of calcium or sodium hypochlorite". There's no evidence that either chemists or their employers are interested in reviving it.)

Linguists, physicists, biologists, etc., are in a similarly verbless condition.

Philosophers philosophize, but botanists would mostly object to being described as people who botanize. (Which is too bad, in my opinion — they should reclaim that formerly honorable word — but that's another story.) Most poets would also be offended at being said to poetize or poeticize, though both of these words exist, and are not always disparaging.

Anthropologists, sociologists and psychologists don't really anthropologize, sociologize or psychologize, at least not as a characteristic practice — though at least those words exist in principle, by virtue of the ability of -ology words to evoke -ologist and -ologize forms.


  1. Ian Tindale said,

    December 31, 2009 @ 1:10 pm

    They've got it wrong, when you think about it.

    [(myl) Exactly. That was what I meant by "bizarre chiasmic analogy"…]

    A brewer does something shorter than "brewer" – they brew.
    A chemist can't therefore do something longer than "chemist" – ie, chemister (which is after all what you'd call the person who chemists).
    By the initial pattern, a chemist must chem. That's what chemists do. They chem.

  2. John Hutch said,

    December 31, 2009 @ 1:14 pm

    Then there's also the situation if your occupation / training / qualification is described by a phrase rather than a single word. What do I, with a degree in Computer Science, do when I apply that training to my job? I am a computer scientist. I do what?


  3. sjt said,

    December 31, 2009 @ 1:18 pm

    "Chemister" might be better explained as a backformation from "chemistry".

    Also, perhaps part of the point of the slogan is the awkwardness of this verb. (Some subtext like: Good honest brewers brew, but as for that bizarre unwholesome activity of chemists, well, there's not even a proper word for it, hurf durf! I'm glad that activity doesn't come near my beer!)

    I'm interested in the story of "botanize". What is the nature of its current disrepute?

    [(myl) The general idea is that botanizing is simply the accumulation of observations, without any motion toward theoretical explanation. Thus this discussion of avian visual cognition explains defensively that

    These structural differences and variations do not make the study of birds' vision uninteresting to those whose primary interest is in human vision. On the contrary, a comparative approach offers an essential perspective. So long as it is based on biological principles, and not on mere botanizing, it is the one approach that can enable us to understand the evolutionary and ecological demands on visual perception and cognition.

    Or in Richard Schantz's What is Truth?:

    Thus in Locke's classic account of the "nominal essense" of 'gold' … it is a body that is yellow, heavy, malleable, fusible, and soluble in aqua regia. But that is mere botanizing. A collection of such accounts of the natures of a large group of kinds of inanimate bodies would provide no general systematic theory of that division of nature. But when we get to the point of distinguishing the element in terms of their atomic structures, we have an account of the natures of these kinds that consitutes a powerful general theory in terms of which we can explain an innumeralbe variety of surface features, as well as regularities in their behavior and interactions.

    I associate this denigration of Charles Darwin's passion with the advent of "molecular biology", a movement largely created by recovering physicists who shifted into biology in the 1950s. One of my life's more surprising interactions was the vehemence of the negative reaction of one such transplanted senior scientist to my diffident suggestion (after a summer spent working in a molecular biology laboratory as I was finishing high school) that the field might find itself spending a few decades "botanizing in the nucleus". I thought that this was a pleasing prospect, if not as interesting in other ways as voyaging in the Beagle, but he was deeply offended by the comparison.]

  4. kip said,

    December 31, 2009 @ 1:19 pm

    @John: You do science to computers, obviously. :)

    Is your job title really "computer scientist" though? I've been a "programmer" (one who programs) and a "software engineer" (one who engineers software), but not a "computer scientist" (except as a student).

  5. mn said,

    December 31, 2009 @ 1:22 pm


    Well, you must use the computer scientific method!

  6. Alex said,

    December 31, 2009 @ 1:35 pm

    I like to think that I 'linguisticate'

  7. Michael Lugo said,

    December 31, 2009 @ 1:38 pm

    I'm a mathematician, and I've heard "mathematize" used, although it usually seems to have a subtly different meaning than "doing mathematics". It seems to mean something roughly like "to turn a real-life situation into a mathematical problem".

    A lot of the words for practitioners of the various subdisciplines of mathematics (algebraist, analyst, geometer, logician, probabilist, X theorist for various values of X, topologist) similarly lack a corresponding verb. In particular, the corresponding verbs seem transitive to me. If someone told me they "algebraized" (or "algebraicized"?) a problem, I would take that to mean that the problem was not originally a problem in algebra but they had transformed it into one.

  8. MattF said,

    December 31, 2009 @ 1:46 pm

    Also, note that someone who practices metaphysics can be either a metaphysicist or a metaphysician. Oddly enough, the Urban Dictionary has a viewpoint about this.

  9. Richard Howland-Bolton said,

    December 31, 2009 @ 1:46 pm

    @ Ian
    Indeed 'chem' is exactly what we used to do, at least as students, and did it largely in the 'chem lab'!

  10. greg said,

    December 31, 2009 @ 1:47 pm

    I would have gone with 'chemistried'.

    And we physicists get it doubly harsh as physicked is a word, but deals with medicine, not physics. So we have a word, but it was stolen by physicians.

  11. Ian Tindale said,

    December 31, 2009 @ 1:54 pm

    John Hutch – I think in those cases – described by a phrase rather than a word – then you're faced with the realisation that what you've got isn't a proper job. Evidently. Bakers bake; writers write; teachers teach; candlestick makers candlestick make; roadsweepers road sweep; fishermen fish, man; butchers, er, well. Then we're into greengrocer's territory. Fishmongers mong fish; ironmongers mong iron (ironically), etc.

  12. Joseph Dart said,

    December 31, 2009 @ 2:06 pm

    Why exactly do engineers engineer? Shouldn't they simply engine?

    And I'm not even going to get into what the police do.

    [(myl) The verbal engineer is historically denominal. And similarly, guard as a verb is apparently more than a century newer than guard as a noun. I can't think of any cases where the noun for an occupation has been zero-derived from a verb, but there probably are some.]

  13. peter said,

    December 31, 2009 @ 2:09 pm

    Michael Lugo — Yet, category theorists do categorify, which describes an activity analagous to what you predicted for algebraize; see the wikipedia entry for categorification:

    On the topic of cute advertising slogans for beer companies, I am unable to resist mentioning James Thurber's suggestion:

    "We still brew good, like we used to could!"

  14. Ryan said,

    December 31, 2009 @ 2:28 pm

    "Linguists, physicists, biologists, etc., are in a similarly verbless condition.

    "Anthropologists, sociologists and psychologists don't really anthropologize, sociologize or psychologize, at least not as a characteristic practice — though at least those words exist in principle, by virtue of the ability of -ology words to evoke -ologist and -ologize forms."

    Biologize works for me, or has it been co-opted already, like botanize?

    [(myl) You're right, biologize is no more outlandish than sociologize. Curiously, though, the OED's first sense for biologize is "To mesmerize":
    1874 CARPENTER Ment. Phys. (1876) 553 The Mind of the Biologized ‘subject’ seems to remain entirely dormant.
    Who knew?]

  15. Mark Eli Kalderon said,

    December 31, 2009 @ 2:42 pm

    Philosophers may philosophize, but I doubt that "philosopher" is an agentive form of the verb. I am guessing that "philosopher" predates philosophize.

  16. Yossi Mandel said,

    December 31, 2009 @ 2:46 pm

    Suggestion: Chemists (and the others) have no word that includes all steps and processes of their work. We refer to individual parts of their work: Chemists research, chemists experiment, chemists analyze, chemists test. Brewing defines all the steps of a brewer's work, so a brewer may brew, while a chemist needs to be specific.

  17. J. W. Brewer said,

    December 31, 2009 @ 2:49 pm

    My paternal grandfather was a chemist surnamed Brewer, yet alas I do not know what verb(s) he used to describe his work activity. But a chemist who applied his or her talents to the socially-laudable activity of beermaking would be entitled to the more honorable title of zymurgist, creating further openings for the coinage of nonce professional verbs (zymurgitate? zymurgicate?).

    I was struck that the verbless job-titles given as examples above are generally not also in use as surnames, whereas many perhaps most occupationally-based surnames do have a discernable accompanying verb (for some apparent exceptions an underlying verb may have become totally obsolete – don't have time to look up e.g. cooper and chandler).

    There is perhaps a third category where the underlying verb is obvious as an etymological matter but can't currently be used to describe the job-defining activity. E.g., one would not say other than jocularly that a linguistics professor is one who "professes linguistics."

  18. Ryan Denzer-King said,

    December 31, 2009 @ 2:57 pm

    As a former philosopher, I would argue that philosophers philosoph. Just like Christophers Christoph and hammers ham.

  19. mgh said,

    December 31, 2009 @ 3:28 pm

    Mark, I can't think of any cases where the noun for an occupation has been zero-derived from a verb, but there probably are some.


  20. Jonathan said,

    December 31, 2009 @ 4:26 pm

    I'm an economist, but as my wife constantly reminds me, I rarely economize.

  21. Ben said,

    December 31, 2009 @ 4:33 pm

    A mayor mays.

  22. Simon Cauchi said,

    December 31, 2009 @ 5:03 pm

    mgh: According to the OED, the verb "cook" is derived from the noun.

  23. mollymooly said,

    December 31, 2009 @ 5:05 pm

    A bit like "biologize":

    The people who call themselves "birders" practice "birding". They don't like to be called "birdwatchers" since they also listen (and maybe smell, though probably not touch or taste). OTOH, they have also been called "ornithologists"; which hardcore sciency types think goes too far for hobbyists. If "ornithologizing" has been reclaimed by academics from birders, then "botanizing" could be reclaimed from planters.

    Is "birding" a proper verb? "I like to bird in France. 12 friends and I birded for two weeks in Provence last Christmas. Thirteen birders birding. Saw three French hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree."

  24. Joe G said,

    December 31, 2009 @ 5:17 pm

    I'm a lawyer. We lawy.

  25. E. said,

    December 31, 2009 @ 5:34 pm

    On a related matter: why are those who theologize(that is, deal with theological issues) called not "theologists" but "theologians"? Has any scholar scolled on this matter(which matts)?

  26. John Cowan said,

    December 31, 2009 @ 5:40 pm

    I think this is because brew is telic, but a verb derived from chemist(ry) would not be: there is no one purpose that chemists as such attempt to achieve. The paradoxical flavor of philosophize similarly accrues from its implicature that what philosophers do is telic, though a less telic activity is hard to imagine.

  27. Zimriel said,

    December 31, 2009 @ 5:44 pm

    What a loss for the English language that it has abandoned such fine words as "chemick (v.)".

  28. majolo said,

    December 31, 2009 @ 6:02 pm

    I've been puzzled in the other direction, by some missing names for the profession of someone in some academic disciplines:
    A member of the mathematics faculty is a mathematician.
    A member of the geology faculty is a geologist.
    A member of the history faculty is a historian.
    A member of the English faculty is…?

  29. Coby Lubliner said,

    December 31, 2009 @ 7:50 pm

    A member of the English faculty is…?

    In most European languages they would be known as (the cognate of) an anglicist.

  30. bunnyhero said,

    December 31, 2009 @ 7:51 pm

    i believe that at adobe, software engineers have the title 'computer scientist'.

  31. George said,

    December 31, 2009 @ 8:05 pm

    I suppose if pests pester, chemists could chemister…

  32. Joe Fineman said,

    December 31, 2009 @ 10:02 pm

    When I was a kid, in kid talk, magicians magished.

    greg: "Physicist" (invented in 1840 by Whewell) is a much newer word than "physician". Physicians came by the verb honestly.

    Mark Liberman: An even more bizarre chiasmic analogy: I once encountered (in MS) an author who had decided that the plural of "formula" must be "formulum".

  33. fs said,

    January 1, 2010 @ 1:09 am

    The derivation of the slogan vaguely reminded me of this old standard:

    If vegetarians eat vegetables, what do humanitarians eat?

    The non-bizarre chiasmic analogical response would tend to be "humanitables", but that kind of ruins the joke. Not that it was really funny to begin with, of course…

  34. Muke Tever said,

    January 1, 2010 @ 3:01 am

    I agree with the 'chemistry' hypothesis — a less bizarre analogy would be ministry : to minister :: chemistry : to chemister.

    Honorable mentions would go to laundry/launder, registry/register and philandery/philander.

    As for zero-derived nouns, I'd suggest possibly 'coach', 'scout', 'spy', and 'guide' at least (not having OED to check for primacy). 'Broker', 'anchor', 'chair', 'author', 'judge', 'referee', 'model', 'nurse', and 'usher' I'm sure must be in the opposite category, though.

  35. Nathan Myers said,

    January 1, 2010 @ 3:17 am

    The dignified verb for what chemists do would be to "compound". In the U.S., we have pharmacists instead of chemists, and when they branch out from counting out pills, we call them "compounding pharmacists". I like to imagine they would be "compounding chemists" in the U.K. I imagine it's the half-pun that makes it pleasing.

  36. Daan said,

    January 1, 2010 @ 4:50 am

    You're right, biologize is no more outlandish than sociologize. Curiously, though, the OED's first sense for biologize is "To mesmerize"

    This is, in fact, the only meaning of the rare Dutch verb biologeren 'to mesmerise', which is to me completely unrelated to the profession of biologists. I don't have access to a Dutch etymological dictionary here, so I can't say whether my gut feeling as a native speaker is right.

  37. Peter Taylor said,

    January 1, 2010 @ 4:58 am

    I was surprised to see (an adjective derived from) the verb "botanise" in the newspaper earlier this week:

    Tim Rich, head of vascular plants at the herbarium, said: “It is amazing that somewhere as well botanised as Cheddar Gorge yields up these fantastic new species.”


    It does seem to fit the narrower meaning Mark mentions above, but it does at least seem that a senior botanist includes "botanising" among the activities of botanists.

    @Mollymooly, I think the verb would be "to go birding" rather than "to bird". There's another issue here relating to twitchers*: some birders would refuse to count twitchers among their numbers, but I don't know what verb they would use to describe their activity.

    * People who care only about logging numbers of bird species seen rather than actually watching them.

  38. Mark Anderson said,

    January 1, 2010 @ 5:40 am

    English solicitors do not solicit (although those signs that their friends helpfully bring them back as souvenirs of holidays in the US may suggest otherwise). Barristers are called to the bar (originally a barrier to keep out the hoi polloi) rather than working in one.

  39. Layra said,

    January 1, 2010 @ 5:51 am

    I've heard "to math" as the verb form corresponding to doing mathematics (with corresponding participle "mathing"). Note: I'm from the US. Possible overseas variant: to maths.

    I like chem, mostly because it's short. Linguists could ling, and botanists could botan. I do like the sound of biologue. Since the physicians have taken physick, maybe the physicists should just phys. Scientists in general could scient (and thus the computer scientist scients computers).
    Economist maybe shouldn't econom.

  40. peter said,

    January 1, 2010 @ 7:44 am

    I've heard "to math" as the verb form corresponding to doing mathematics (with corresponding participle "mathing"). Note: I'm from the US. Possible overseas variant: to maths.

    This provides an opportunity to mention the International Treaty on the Preservation of the Balance of Plurals. How else to explain that in those English-speaking countries in which people typically refer to "math" (respectively, "maths"), people typically also refer to "sports" (respectively, "sport").

  41. J. Goard said,

    January 1, 2010 @ 8:11 am

    It just occurred to me that a major factor in this analogy may be the form of verbs in the semantic neighborhood, particularly doctored and tampered (with). This relationship could have had an effect in one of two ways. On the one hand, because of the association the audience is supposed to have with chemistry in this context, the semantically similar words with /-rd/ could have made chemistered the strongest competitor for denominal verb. Alternatively, it might be that /-rd/ was employed by insightful (admen/ad people/adders) specifically to evoke the highly negative "doctored".

  42. [ni:v] said,

    January 1, 2010 @ 9:40 am

    I once heard that the proper/original title for a linguist is "linguistician" but that nobody could be bothered to use it. Does anyone know if this has any basis in fact?

  43. Terry Collmann said,

    January 1, 2010 @ 10:46 am

    Journalists, who have been known in the past as "journaliers" (Swift used the word), can and do journal: the OED records the use of the word as a verb, though its only references come from the 19th century.

  44. Terry Collmann said,

    January 1, 2010 @ 10:48 am

    J. Goard: a veterinarian friend of mine likes to ask people: "Would you rather be vetted or doctored?"

  45. Ray Girvan said,

    January 1, 2010 @ 11:50 am

    Apt geographical trivia from Google Books: the 1831 A topographical dictionary of London and its environs finds a Brewer Court … opposite Chemister Alley.

  46. Dan Lufkin said,

    January 1, 2010 @ 2:26 pm

    @ Daan — I just happen to have the a/i volume of van Dale here on my desk and it illustrates the use of biologeren with a quote from M. Biesheuvel and meaning hypnotized. I guess that'd be the novelist Maarten B. It etymologizes the word as Hoogduits (High German), but I don't find it anywhere in German except for a slang expression for "sleeping together."

  47. Ben Hemmens said,

    January 1, 2010 @ 3:04 pm

    "A member of the English faculty is…?" Well in German he or she is an "Anglizist", and would Anglicist be so bad in English?

    The slogan could equally have said "not synthesized by chemists", synthesizing being a real word, something that chemists do, and at least as sinister. They could have just said "brewed, not synthesized".

    But claiming that your beer is brewed, not synthesized might imply that other beers are indeed synthesized. So perhaps using "chemistered" was a clever way of avoiding being sued by other breweries. They can't complain about being jokingly accused of doing something that isn't a real verb.

  48. Ben Hemmens said,

    January 1, 2010 @ 3:21 pm

    Damn, it's an Anglist.

    My wife is one.

  49. Non Naive Speaker said,

    January 1, 2010 @ 4:07 pm

    while reading this entry I just listened to the John Prine song "Lake Marie"

    The loan sharks were sharkingthe narcs were narcing

  50. marie-lucie said,

    January 1, 2010 @ 4:16 pm

    A member of the English faculty is …

    In a French-speaking school or university you will find people described as anglicistes, hispanistes, germanistes, latinistes, hellénistes, etc, but no gallicistes, although an interference error from French into another language is a gallicisme, and one from English into French is an anglicisme. Similarly, in an English-speaking institution you might find germanists, hellenists, arabists, etc but no anglicists (I have never heard of an anglist). Specialists in foreign languages have their own professional names, but not those specialists in the dominant language, who will be either literary scholars or grammarians (and sometimes linguists, but only if they are trained in linguistics).

  51. Josh said,

    January 1, 2010 @ 4:47 pm

    As a one-time physics grad student, we would often use "physicking" among ourselves to describe what we did. Sometimes we'd go for a more wistful "a-physicking" to make it seem more pleasant.

  52. Army1987 said,

    January 1, 2010 @ 4:58 pm

    "Physicists do not need mysticism, and mystics do not need physics, but humanity needs both."
    When I read this, I couldn't help noticing that for physicists the noun for the person is suffixed from the noun for the field, but for mystics the converse applies.

  53. Ben Hemmens said,

    January 2, 2010 @ 8:53 am

    re "Anglist" (in German):

  54. Ben Hemmens said,

    January 2, 2010 @ 8:55 am

    Just testing: misogynist

  55. Ben Hemmens said,

    January 2, 2010 @ 8:57 am

    Hypnotists hypnotize, manicurists manicure, activists act, and misogynists … misogynate?

    Did I type a bad word? This doesn't seem to have gotten through on previous attempts …

  56. StevC said,

    January 2, 2010 @ 12:53 pm

    Just to note that one of the examples in the post – to cobble – is in fact a back formation from cobbler.
    As for the chiasmic analogy, well – let me put it this way… it's probably a chemistry thing

  57. Mark Anderson said,

    January 2, 2010 @ 4:12 pm

    Do bodgers bodge?


  58. Rastloser said,

    January 2, 2010 @ 4:55 pm

    And please don't forget that you can always use a generic term to describe what a scientist does, because, as Questionable Content tells us, science is a verb now :-)

  59. Garrett Wollman said,

    January 2, 2010 @ 7:48 pm

    Regarding the (apparent) downfall of "botanize", I am reminded of some biologists' (particularly evolutionary biologists') denigration of systematics and paleontology as "mere stamp-collecting" (noted in a number of S.J. Gould essays — as a member of the paleontological profession he presumably would have experienced this first-hand).

  60. Ken Brown said,

    January 2, 2010 @ 10:02 pm

    Garrett Wollman said: "I am reminded of some biologists' (particularly evolutionary biologists') denigration of systematics and paleontology as "mere stamp-collecting""

    Wasn't it physicists who accused of of that? Rutherford maybe? Systematics and palaeontology (and population genetics) *are* evolutionary biology. Its part of the long-running, er, creative tension between Natural History and Natural Philosophy. Real evolutionary biologists have no problem with it! Natural Philosophy is different from Natural History (its Plato versus Aristotle) but both are needed to understand the world.

    Biologists should have given up physics-envy a long time ago. I'm channelling Ernst Mayr here, but in determinist, essentialist sciences the goal is to find simple descriptions of underlying reality, "laws", which are in fact the truth, and when they are found exceptions to them are problems to be explained. And if they can't be then one contrary result disproves a hypothesis. The world as it really is can be described by systems of deterministic equations.

    But in observational, historical, population-based sciences, laws are not the basic truth but merely statistical descriptions of contingent events. Exceptions to them are to be expected. Small numbers of unpredicted observations do not disprove a hypothesis. The world as it really is can be described only by narrative and by nested systems of classification.

    I have to come clean. I have studied botany and even have a degree (mostly) in it. And I have no trouble with the word "botanising". And I have a hand lens and a notebook in my bag right now, just in case. And Real Biologists (TM) get mud on their boots. You can't do it in a lab.

  61. peter said,

    January 3, 2010 @ 4:36 am

    Ken Brown said (January 2, 2010 @ 10:02 pm):

    "Biologists should have given up physics-envy a long time ago. I'm channelling Ernst Mayr here, but in determinist, essentialist sciences the goal is to find simple descriptions of underlying reality, "laws", which are in fact the truth, and when they are found exceptions to them are problems to be explained."

    In support of your overall view here, it is worth noting that physicists and chemists do not in fact seek "laws" to model reality as it actually is, but rather to model abstracted simplifications of reality. Over time, these abstract simplifications have themselves become ever more complicated, but even at this late state in the history of the sciences, they are still just that – abstract simplifications, not reality itself. It is not logically necessary that a good model of an abstraction of reality is also a good model of reality, as the recent failure of mainstream economics shows.

  62. Sparky said,

    January 3, 2010 @ 5:22 pm

    And then there's the 19th century Punch cartoon:

    "Father: I am going to the Anthropological Institute, my dear.

    "Daughter: And where do they anthropolodge, papa?"

    I remember reading it in something by James Thurber, but the only mention I could find on the interwebs was here, on Google Books:

    And don't even get me started on the title of the book I found it in.

  63. Nanani said,

    January 4, 2010 @ 2:19 am

    This suggests that *a chemistry is the place where chemists chem, analogous with the brewery, which is the place where brewers brew.

    Are there others?

    A ministry is a place where one minister ministers, for a sort of minister (the governmental).
    An apothecary, the place where apothercars apothec?

  64. Ben Hemmens said,

    January 4, 2010 @ 1:27 pm

    Scientists boff.

  65. Carrie S. said,

    January 4, 2010 @ 1:33 pm

    While we're on the subject, could we revise the entire set of terminology surrounding the efforts of chiropractors? They insist upon referring to their procedures as "chiropractic", which always makes me want to ask "Chiropractic what?" Personally I am of the opinion that chiropractors should chiropract, in much the same way that actors act.

  66. Katherine said,

    January 5, 2010 @ 11:41 pm

    It's still better than the other slogan used to advertise the same beer, though not as linguistically interesting.

    Another company likes to advertise here by waffling a little, and then saying "Let's face it, this is a beer launch." I hope they don't spend too much on their advertising slogans.

  67. uberVU - social comments said,

    January 6, 2010 @ 10:49 pm

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by languagelog: Professional verbs: Stephen Judd complains about the slogan for a New Zealand beer:
    "Brewed by brewers, not chemist…

  68. Ben Hemmens said,

    January 8, 2010 @ 6:33 pm

    "While we're on the subject, could we revise the entire set of terminology surrounding the efforts of chiropractors? "

    Yeah, I bet Simon Singh has a word for that ;-)

  69. Trix said,

    January 12, 2010 @ 5:34 am

    Perhaps because I'm a New Zealander, and it tickles my cultural funny bone, but the intention certainly wasn't to seriously describe what chemists do – as someone observed above, it was about poking fun at arcane "scientificking" (and the "chemical soup" that some beers are these days) as opposed to the wholesome nature of brewing good old-fashioned beer with malt and hops. Some remarks might be made about the strain of anti-intellectualism in some parts of the NZ populace that this ad might be hooking into, but that might be reaching a bit too.

    Speaking of more seriously-intended occupational backformations, I, as a systems administrator, utterly loathe my job being described as "administrating". It drives me absolutely nuts.

  70. Andrew T said,

    October 20, 2010 @ 1:50 am

    I'll echo Ken Brown. I'm a botanist, and I botanize.

    The word does have a somewhat archaic feel to me (Corpus of American English's examples are all archaicisms), and is a little informal. I'd never use it in a grant application, but I and my colleagues use it in conversation from time to time. I do work at one of the few institutions that sponsors a lot of scientists engage in activity which could be called botanizing, so my sense of it in the larger scientific culture may be a little skewed. I didn't use/hear the word that I can recall while in grad school (in an organismal biology department that include zoologists and lab-based research as well as some field botany).

    "Botanizing" as an activity has fallen out of favor scientifically. There may be some stigma against the word in molecular biology, but I wouldn't consider a molecular biologist who studies plants to be a "real botanist". I suppose the Rutherfordian "anything but physics is stamp collecting" applies most accurately to traditional alpha taxonomy. However, Mark Liberman's "botanizing the nucleus" metaphor is apt. Molecular biology at this point is still in the early stage of describing and identifying all of the genetic diversity out there. Biology moved from the field to the lab 100 years ago (with the development of ecology as a return to the field with more quantitative methods from the 1930s). Biology moved from the organism to the cell and nucleus 50ish years ago. But there are still organismal biologists who work in the field, and the line between ecology and mere botanizing isn't clear. If you ever see a news story about a new species of plant, the people who found it were botanizing (and most new species of plants that don't make the news).

    It's interesting to see how botanize has been metaphorically appropriated on Language Log. There are a few instances where it is used as Rod Johnson defined it: "botanize—browsing, perhaps slightly idly, the landscape…". This seems to be a slightly derogatory sense, although not totally inaccurate. Mark Liberman gives two instance of "mere botanizing" (not applied to plants) above. I wonder if there are some other derogatory constructions. The vast majority of Google hits for botanizing alone seem to be informal but not derogatory. In Rod Johnson's definition, I'd be happier with "apparently purposelessly" than "slightly idly".

    There's a few instances of botanize on the TAXACOM mailing list:

    And a blog with that title by somebody who botanizes (not me):

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