"You have foraged relationships with many presidents"

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According to the OED, the verb forge originally meant "To make, fashion, frame, or construct (any material thing)", derived via French forger from Latin fabricare. But this sense is "Obs. exc. as coincident with transf. use of 2. to forge together: to frame together, weld". For the last few hundred years, the literal meaning of forge was "To shape by heating in a forge and hammering; to beat into shape".

And a couple of centuries ago, everyone was familiar with the local blacksmith whose work provided the material basis for many metaphors, since

Thus at the flaming forge of life
Our fortunes must be wrought;
Thus on its sounding anvil shaped
Each burning deed and thought.

Modern forges are mostly industrial-scale enterprises that relatively few people have ever seen or even had occasion to talk about, so that the verb forge has come loose from its material mooring.

The noun forage, originally meaning "Food for horses and cattle", comes to us from French fourrage, which was the French version of Germanic fodder. The verb forage comes from French fourrager, and originally meant "To collect forage from" or "To rove in search of forage". But early in the process, the noun's scope was narrowed to "provender for the horses in an army", and the verb was used transitively to mean "to overrun (a country) for the purpose of obtaining or destroying supplies; to lay under contribution for forage. Also in wider sense, to plunder, pillage, ravage", or intransitively to mean "To rove in search of forage or provisions; spec. of soldiers in the field."

Armies no longer depend on horses, and the verb forage is used mainly in its once-figurative sense "To rove or hunt about as in search of supplies; to make a roving search for; to rummage", or transitively "To obtain by foraging or rummaging".

Due to the normal lenition processes of casual speech in some varieties of English, the unstressed second vowel in "foraged" and "forage" might reduce — or surface only as a lengthening of the [ɹ] — to the point where the result overlaps with pronunciations of "forge". So now, learners of these varieties of English, encountering expressions like "[fɔɹdʒd] relationships" in speech, may be faced with an interpretive choice. Just as it's possible to create relationships by figurative forging, it's also possible to create relationships by figurative foraging. So did they hear "forged relationships" or "foraged relationships"?

I don't think that I can hear Chuck Todd's pronunciation as "foraged" and "forage":

But I'm probably influenced by my belief that what you do to relationships is to forge them, not forage them. If my phrasal lexicon were different, then the phoneme restoration effect (which is more powerful than most people realize) might take my perception in a different direction.

Anyhow, the person who transcribed Todd's forges as forages is not alone. Some web examples:

He set up meetings to forage a relationship with the leaders of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO).
They will forage a relationship simply to get what they need.
EMDR will help forage a relationship between the traumatic memory and new ways of thinking about it.
Longer Term: Develop a 3-year plan to forage a relationship among the ESA, the. Entomological Foundation, and NSTA.
After all this time she didn't forage a relationship with his peeps?
It took two men of modern day times, from two totally different perspectives, backgrounds, and faiths to forage a relationship and grow to mutually respect the narratives of each other.
I foraged a relationship with my own Great Heart.
My favorite blog designs are the ones I get to do for people with whom I've foraged a relationship with ages before I do any work for them.
Who, during that time, foraged a relationship with Paul Newman as well.
I do my best to use local herbs, foraging a relationship with the medicines right outside our homes.
But what's more important is foraging a relationship with my daughter.
Slowing, Sebastian swam up alongside me and meeting his glimmering ebony eyes it occurred to me that through our games and play, we were foraging bonds of friendship.
Solid relationships with parents and students continue to be his forte in foraging bonds within the community we serve.

See their collaborative editorial and read their personal conversation about credibility within the creative sphere and how to forage your own identity through work.
for me, it was the best of times and the worst of times, difficult times whenever one is trying to forage their own identity.
I think they'd be smart to have her attempt to forage her own identity and then kind of just accept her own blandness.
Both Lucy and the speaker in “Exile” attempt to forage an identity by living in the very lands that destroyed their native cultures.
Try to forage an identity for yourself outside of the court which will allow you to be competent should life throw you a curve ball.
Considering herself single again, Margaret must re-examine herself, and forage an identity in her new life.

No, new mothers carry their children within themselves for 9 months, they have 9 months to forage a bond before they actually meet their child.
These animals need time to forage a bond with you to be able to trust you.
It is rather narcissistic, but really helps forage a bond between avatar and gamer.
John is being honest about what it takes to forage a bond with parrots.
As days become weeks and lust turns into love Winston and Ainsley forage a bond that only few couples attain.
I was able to relate to them, forage a bond, even if in my heart, I knew that my struggle did not equal what they experienced.
One kiss foraged a bond between them that would undoubtedly last forever.
To have foraged a bond that strong means the child got everything they needed during that transition time and more.

He had taught her to ride, helped her forage a friendship with Owaine, carried her from Sago—and she missed him dearly.
We've had a bumpy road, but I hope Robyn and I can forage a friendship in the future.
But they see beyond his dwarfism, and try to forage a friendship with Fin.
At that time it was very strange to forage a friendship via a computer screen
Once you forage a friendship with a sales lead you are more likely to want to make sure you're getting the best ride for your dollar.

In turn I was able to forage a link with an amazing vet who was able to help him.
We have foraged a link with an organization, the Southeast Iowa Organic Association (SEIOA) that should ensure the long term sustainability of our program.


  1. Cervantes said,

    January 14, 2017 @ 9:38 am

    I don't think that I can hear Chuck Todd's pronunciation as "foraged" and "forage":

    Nor can I.

    Chuck Todd is a fully paid-up member of the legion of the lost ones and the cohort of the damned — but on this particular charge he is falsely accused.

  2. Amy Stoller said,

    January 14, 2017 @ 10:06 am

    I definitely hear forged, not foraged. Of course in my idiolect, forage has two syllables and the first vowel is /ɑ/, and I’m familiar with the idiom. I think this is a transcription error.

    [(myl) I agree that it's a transcription error — what's interesting about it is that the transcriber presumably is one of the people who thinks that what you do to relationships, bonds, friendships etc. is to forage them rather than forge them.]

  3. David L said,

    January 14, 2017 @ 1:10 pm

    I wonder if some people associate 'forge' more readily with forgery and counterfeiting, so that the idea of forging a relationship sounds incorrect.

  4. Gregory Kusnick said,

    January 14, 2017 @ 1:15 pm

    I've always thought of "forging new ground" as a mixed metaphor. Now suddenly it makes a weird kind of sense.

  5. chris said,

    January 14, 2017 @ 1:41 pm

    @David L: It looks to me like "forgery" is a relic of the original deprecated meaning (non-metal-specific).

  6. D.O. said,

    January 14, 2017 @ 4:26 pm

    How do we know it's not a misspelling? Maybe some people think that "forge" is written forage . Unlikely, I guess, it is a more difficult spelling (extra unpronounced letter, but English is full of those), but still.

  7. Michael Watts said,

    January 14, 2017 @ 11:06 pm

    So now, learners of these varieties of English, encountering expressions like "[fɔɹdʒd] relationships" in speech, may be faced with an interpretive choice. Just as it's possible to create relationships by figurative forging, it's also possible to create relationships by figurative foraging. So did they hear "forged relationships" or "foraged relationships"?

    It's not much of an interpretive choice, since forge is a transitive verb and forage isn't, but the confusion can return if our hypothesis is that the listener is familiar with the meaning of both words but not the syntax that they require.

    [(myl) You need to get out more. The OED's entry for forage v. starts out:

    1. trans. To collect forage from; to overrun (a country) for the purpose of obtaining or destroying supplies; to lay under contribution for forage. Also in wider sense, to plunder, pillage, ravage.

    See also e.g.

    [link] Foraging The Weeds For Wild, Healthy Greens
    [link] Foraging the Tennessee River Valley, 12,500 to 8,000 Years Ago
    [link] Foraging the Edible, Collectible World
    [link] Once you've foraged your mushrooms, it's time to clean.
    [link] Are you brave enough to forage your dinner?
    [link] Hi Everyone! I need to forage some wild hypericum. Any idea where it is in NYC?
    [link] I urge anyone thinking of foraging any plants, to abide by foraging rules and pick very sparingly.

    And even without this evidence, transitivity variation is rampant in English, so someone would need to generalize broadly from limited experience to "learn" that forage "isn't" intransitive…

  8. Michael Watts said,

    January 15, 2017 @ 11:05 am

    Those first three links aren't relevant to what I really meant, which is that the food produced by (or sought in) the foraging process can't appear as the direct object of forage. The last four are. I note, though, that the OED gloss also assumes that the object of this trans. sense is a place and not the stuff gathered from that place.

    I searched COCA for forage_v* and coded the first 100 results as f when the "food" (or other metaphorical product) of foraging was marked by "for", i when it was left unspecified, o when it was marked by "on" or "upon", and t when it was the direct object of "forage". The counts were:

    i – 48 (e.g. "free-range birds forage outdoors during the day")
    f – 25 (e.g. "teaching their cats to forage for their food")
    o – 7 (e.g. "forage upon vegetarian fare")
    t – 1("made do with smaller game and whatever else they could forage")

    The remaining 19 were disqualified, in one case for being a duplicate of another entry, in one case for being unintelligible, and in 17 cases for not being verbs (e.g. "potager vegetables, forage crops, and traditional Missouri grains").

    I'd be pretty comfortable generalizing from that sample to conclude that the product of foraging can't appear as the object of forage. I was under the impression that all language learning faced the problem of generalizing broadly from a set of examples all of which are correct and none of which are incorrect? How rare does a construction need to be before it's reasonable to "learn" that it's a mistake?

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