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Doug Henschen, "SAS DataFlux Unit Bows Unified Data Management Platform", Intelligent Enterprise, 2/23/2010.

Inspection of the article reveals that bow is a transitive verb meaning "cause to take a bow (of metaphorical introduction)", i.e. "introduce".

The causative is a regular formation, and a short verb meaning "introduce" has surely been something headline writers wanted for a long time, so why don't we see this more often?

Maybe it's because causative bow retains enough of its root meaning to be uncomfortably close to the more traditional causative uses, such as the one that the OED glosses as "To cause to stoop, to crush (as a load does)", as in

1671 MILTON Samson 698 With sickness and disease thou bow'st them down.
1725 POPE Odyss. XI. 239 And bow his age with sorrow to the tomb.

A "Dataflux Unit" is an especially unfortunate subject, from this perspective.


  1. Mark P said,

    March 19, 2010 @ 11:04 am

    It's another great addition to headlinese, but why use it when there is no space limitation for the headline? I think it's a dog.

  2. Electric Dragon said,

    March 19, 2010 @ 11:31 am

    "Bow" in this sense is something I associate with Variety's own peculiar jargon (or slanguage as they call it):

    bow — (n.) opening or premiere; (v.) to debut a production; "The pic's bow was in January"; "The Nederlander Organization will bow its revival of 'Wonderful Town' next year."

  3. Bill Walderman said,

    March 19, 2010 @ 11:38 am

    "Bow" is a written word that's just perfect for crash blossoms because it represents both a verb and two different, non-homonymous nouns.

  4. John Lawler said,

    March 19, 2010 @ 11:42 am

    The fact that bow is also the spelling for a (distantly related but essentially independent) noun [bo:] that's pronounced differently from the verb [bau] could also be a source of at least some reluctance to use it in headlines. Situations like that are asking for crash blossoms.

  5. Doreen said,

    March 19, 2010 @ 11:55 am

    Yeah, I immediately thought of Variety too.

  6. John Cowan said,

    March 19, 2010 @ 12:20 pm

    Man, and I thought helms (for 'directs, as a film') was bad. /ftɛx/. I must be turning into a prescriptivist.

  7. Mr Fnortner said,

    March 19, 2010 @ 12:21 pm

    For those of us who still have difficulty with row and row, that is, "paddle" and "argue"/"argument", this is all we need.

    If it's overcast all day before it finally rains, was that a rainbow? And is K and elbow?

  8. Robert Coren said,

    March 19, 2010 @ 12:38 pm

    @Mark P: I think it's a dog.

    Bow? Wow.

    Never having been a habitual reader of Variety, I have never seen this usage before. "Debut" might do the job better, although I'm a little itchy about that as a transitive verb too.

  9. JL said,

    March 19, 2010 @ 1:18 pm

    'Wound' as in "the string is wound around the stick", and
    'Wound' as in "he received six stitches for his wound"

    — Is there a word for these sorts of pairs, spelled identically but pronounced differently and, I'm guessing, otherwise unrelated?

  10. Terry Collmann said,

    March 19, 2010 @ 1:38 pm

    It certainly reads at first as if the dataflux unit was so heavy it bent the data management platform. I suspect a newsprint headline, with a tight count, was imported onto the web without anybody thinking that there was now the space to use "introduces" or "announces" instead of "bows".

  11. Áine ní Dhonnchadha said,

    March 19, 2010 @ 2:02 pm

    I am with Mr Cowan on this one: I must be turning into a prescriptivist in my elder years. I engage in what the grammar books would consider sodomy (though I and my ilk deem it rather to be just a different kind of love) but I'm calling OMGWTFBBQ on that usage. It's just as pretentiously incomprehensible after explanation as it were before…

  12. Nick Lamb said,

    March 19, 2010 @ 2:05 pm

    I didn't look, but this "article" is probably from a rag that rephrases press releases for a specific industry niche. So you're not really talking about a "journalist" but more someone whose job is to try to take e.g. 14 press releases about products that are very slightly better than some previous product and make them all "jump out" at an audience who know exactly what these products are, but still don't much care. There's a good chance that the opposite page is a full page advert of an attractive young person with this product, even though its readers know no-one that attractive has ever even interviewed for a job using that product, and the model in the photo is holding it the wrong way up or making some other elementary mistake.

    In that circumstance I can imagine the poor (re)writer starts desperately using synonyms just to stave off the boredom. If you've written that various companies are going to "release", "debut", "announce", and "present" their new product, and you're still on the 3rd of 20 pages of PR that need to be turned into a new "issue" then I can imagine Variety's "bow" looks like a plausible next choice.

  13. Faldone said,

    March 19, 2010 @ 2:25 pm

    I immediately spotted bows as the verb but I wasn't sure what it meant or whether it was pronounced [bo:z] or [bauz]

  14. Dennis Brennan said,

    March 19, 2010 @ 2:37 pm

    "debuts" is not that much longer than "bows"

  15. Spectre-7 said,

    March 19, 2010 @ 2:46 pm


    – Is there a word for these sorts of pairs, spelled identically but pronounced differently and, I'm guessing, otherwise unrelated?

    I believe they're called heteronyms.

  16. JL said,

    March 19, 2010 @ 3:32 pm

    Thanks, Spectre-7:

    Curiously, 'wind' is another, like 'wound' — or is two more — one as in "wrap around" and one as in "breeze". 'Content' is another, depending on whether you stress the first or second syllable — though I don't know if that counts as a difference in pronunciation.

    But when I look up heteronyms, at least on wikipedia, many of the pairs — 'abuse', for example, and 'convict' — seem to be cognates. Which is not so of the two 'wind's. I wonder if there's a word for this second, smaller class, which is even deadlier in headlines and the like.

    Years ago, when a Pope of Polish descent was visiting New York, I remember an advertisement for Bloomingdales which bore the tag line "Pomp and Polish". I thought this was a bit much, as opportunism went — until I realized they meant "polish", as in neatness, shine. It was the capital that threw me…

  17. Benjamin Zimmer said,

    March 19, 2010 @ 3:38 pm

    This usage came up on ADS-L last year when Damien Hall noted the similar headline, "Animax Bows Foreign-Language iPhone App for Toddlers."

    The transitivization of bow is reminiscent of Variety-style ankle, which I discussed here.

  18. Ben Bolker said,

    March 19, 2010 @ 3:38 pm

    @Nick: I remember from long ago a "Shoe" cartoon
    (in the Boston Globe probably some time in the 1980s) that had a journalist
    writing that one sports team had "dekrellnificated" (sp?) another — and then
    explaining to his friend that "even sports writers run out of verbs eventually".
    The cartoon doesn't seem to be in the archives. "Dekrellnificate" (with two "L"s)
    gets no google hits, "dekrelnificate" (with one) gets 3 hits meaning 'critique
    harshly', and two sports-related uses — maybe the authors read the same strip
    I did? Or maybe MacNelly (the author of Shoe) was picking up a previous

  19. Frans said,

    March 19, 2010 @ 4:18 pm

    I thought it was someone trying to make up a more normal sounding phrase for "pwns" when I first read that, i.e. "SAS DataFlux Unit Kicks Butt of Unified Data Management Platform." Well, actually I still think that makes more sense than a metaphorical "introduce."

  20. The effin' bear said,

    March 19, 2010 @ 4:54 pm

    A neat and novel sense of bow, but like they say, a fresh temper bolts.

  21. Bill Ricker said,

    March 19, 2010 @ 5:25 pm

    After this page is next spidered, it may be the top hit for "Dekrellnificate" OR "dekrelnificate" when someone googles.

    Oops, two more nouns verbed. No, three.


  22. Simon Cauchi said,

    March 19, 2010 @ 6:07 pm

    Is Robert Coren (whose post appeared at 12:38 pm) related to Alan, by any chance?

  23. Rubrick said,

    March 19, 2010 @ 6:41 pm

    Where can I buy an SAS DataFlux Unit Bow? I really need something that can unify my data management platform. And I took Archery in camp when I was 14.

  24. Lasse said,

    March 19, 2010 @ 7:32 pm

    We don't see it more often because "introduce" is not an intuitively graspable meaning of the word. If you hadn't spelled out the meaning that the headline was attempting to convey, I would have absolutely no clue. The fact that you had to "inspect the article" to determine the meaning of the headline suggests that this usage, while novel, is retarded. It may take root among the business-world speakers of "moronese," but common sense will provide enough evolutionary pressure to keep it out of the mainstream.

  25. Dan Lufkin said,

    March 19, 2010 @ 7:44 pm

    I once saw in a Warsaw bookshop a slim volume entitled Polish up Your English. It did not meet my requirements at the time, but I always regretted not buying it.

  26. Robert Coren said,

    March 19, 2010 @ 11:05 pm

    @Simon: No, I'm not.

  27. Ralph Hickok said,

    March 20, 2010 @ 10:23 am

    I've often seen "bow" used in this sense in headlines, but what threw me off is that I don't recall ever seeing it as a transitive verb before. So a headline such as "MGM musical bows in NYC" is no problem to me at all, but "MGM bows musical in NYC" is good for a quadruple take.
    As a transitive verb, "bow" means to me what a bass fiddle player does when not plucking the strings of the instrument.

  28. Jen said,

    March 21, 2010 @ 10:17 am

    Please see my comment in another LL post:

    There, I detail how the transitive verb "submit" takes on a new, causative meaning where its direct object is forced to "submit [intransitive]".

  29. David Walker said,

    March 26, 2010 @ 11:16 am

    Headline writers will never learn… New York Times, March 26, 2010:

    "Transfer cleared by pope, priest molested again"

    It almost makes you think the priest deserved it, but of course no one deserves that….

  30. Private Zydeco said,

    April 4, 2010 @ 7:42 am

    SAS…DataFlux unit…heavy… Data Management Platform…bowed….!

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