This week's display of ignorant peeving

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David Ulin, "I Can’t Stand These Words Anymore", The Atlantic 12/30/2020:

Recently, I noticed a headline in The New York Times that featured the word tasked. This is among my least favorite rhetorical strategies—the verbing of the noun. Contemporary American English is rife with such constructions: to journal, to parent, to impact, to effect. I wince a little every time I come across one.

Jonathan Lundell, who sent in the link, notes that

The gripe is that task got verbed, particularly delicious in that the earliest OED citations for verbed notice, feature and task (in the modern senses) are 1660, 1888, and 1530 respectively.

In other words, Ulin's lead sentence uses two verbed nouns (notice and feature) that are one to three centuries more recent than task, the verbing that he's peeving about.

And as Jonathan also observes, the OED cites five Shakespearian taskings:

1598 W. Shakespeare Henry IV, Pt. 1 iv. i. 9 Nay taske me to my word, approue me Lord.
1609 W. Shakespeare Sonnets lxxii. sig. E3v O least the world should taske you to recite, What merit liu'd in me that you should loue.
a1616 W. Shakespeare Coriolanus (1623) i. iii. 38 A Haruest man..task'd to mowe Or all, or loose his hyre.
a1616 W. Shakespeare Merry Wives of Windsor (1623) iv. vi. 29 Doctor Caius..Shall..shuffle her away, While other sports are tasking of their mindes.
a1616 W. Shakespeare Henry V (1623) i. ii. 6 Some things of weight, That taske our thoughts.

I admit that the rest of Ulin's piece suggests that his motivations are more complex, and more arbitrary, than mere rejection of (what he perceives as) neologistic verbing.

But let me indulge one of my own pet peeves anyhow, quoting from "At a loss for lexicons" (2/9/2004):

Can't anybody use a dictionary anymore? I enjoy a good curmudgeonly rant about how English is going to the dogs these days, I really do. But why can't the journalists who crank out such screeds check their lexical prejudices against a good dictionary or two?

OK, Ulin isn't a journalist. But still…

Update — I should also give the OED's first citation dates for the other verbifications that Ulin complains about:

journal: 1803
parent: 1603 (or 1970, in the figurative sense "act as a parent")
impact: 1601 (or 1935 in the figurative sense "to have a (pronounced) effect on")
effect: 1581

His problem with these words might be not their novelty but rather some vaguer socio-aesthetic negativity, as with most of the other words that he objects to. But citing the "verbing" process suggests that it's the root of his reaction in these cases, and I suspect that most of his sympathetic readers will go that way as well. So it's ironic that verbal "effect" is older than either "notice" or "feature", two denominal verbs that he uses in his first sentence.



  1. Craig said,

    December 31, 2020 @ 2:53 pm

    What bugs me more is the reverse: verbs becoming nouns. Most likely I'm just as wrong as Mr. Ulin, but to me it sounds like fashionable corporate babble to say, "What is the customer's ask?" rather than "What is the customer's request?" or "What is the customer asking for?" or perhaps better still, "What does the customer want?"

  2. Scott P. said,

    December 31, 2020 @ 2:59 pm

    My question would be — does this phenomenon mean that a larger and larger percentage of English verbs are quondam nouns, or is there some other countervailing linguistic force that is turning verbs into nouns-only?

  3. Tal said,

    December 31, 2020 @ 3:12 pm

    @Craig: The OED provides an example of "ask" as a noun from before the year 1000 CE. It also has citations from 1205, 1230, and (first one to use modern spelling) 1781: "I am not so unreasonable as to desire you to … answer all my asks".

    You're making the same sin Ulin made :-)

  4. Philip Taylor said,

    December 31, 2020 @ 3:28 pm

    Well, I have considerable sympathy for peevers — I suspect that most are of an age not unlike my own, and therefore experienced a very prescriptive/proscriptive style of education. And I certainly agree with Mr Ulin that the pseudo-verb "to parent" is an abomination, just as is "to truant" and "to prank". One is a parent, and one plays truant and plays pranks.

  5. Chester Draws said,

    December 31, 2020 @ 3:43 pm

    And I certainly agree with Mr Ulin that the pseudo-verb "to parent" is an abomination

    I'm intrigued. Do you object to the word "parenting" too?

    parent (v.)

    1660s, transitive, "be or act as a parent to," from parent (n.). Intransitive sense of "be a parent" is by 1959. Related: Parented; parenting.

    Been around a while for a "pseudo-verb".

  6. orin ed deniro said,

    December 31, 2020 @ 3:48 pm

    Didn't Mr. Ulin verb the noun "verb" when he objected to "verbing of the noun?"

    [(myl) Indeed. ]

  7. Philip Taylor said,

    December 31, 2020 @ 4:10 pm

    Yes, I'm afraid I do (disapprove of the word "parenting", that is). Of "Parent, v.", the OED admits "rare before 20th cent." and the first quotation that refers to human "parenting" rather than "parenting" by an institution or "parenting" in the abstract is dated 1970 : "1970 F. Dodson (title) How to parent.". Certainly my parents did not parent me — they raised me, looked after me, fed me, watered me, but they most certainly did not "parent" me, for which I am suitably grateful.

  8. Gregory Kusnick said,

    December 31, 2020 @ 4:11 pm

    It's unfortunately quite possible to be a parent without doing any actual parenting.

  9. Michael said,

    December 31, 2020 @ 6:57 pm

    The most astonishing part of Mr. Ulin's peeve to me is his final objection, "to effect." I wonder if what he actually means is the quite frequent misuse of "effect" as a verb when one means "affect" (I suppose I don't need to point out to this crowd that to affect something generally produces an effect). Or, perhaps he even gets upset when someone uses "to effect" to mean "to create" as in "effecting change?"
    In either case, I had never thought that the noun "effect" came first or gave rise to a verb.

  10. Stephen Hart said,

    December 31, 2020 @ 7:27 pm

    Hard to believe that it took 10 comments to get to verbing weirds language:

    Also, Phillip Taylor raised the raise/rear crotchet:

  11. Jenny Chu said,

    December 31, 2020 @ 9:01 pm

    If you are going to discuss parenting verbs, I've always thought that the more interesting topic was the difference between "to father" (to contribute sperm) and "to mother" (which implies considerably more than providing an ovum and womb space)

  12. Bloix said,

    December 31, 2020 @ 11:27 pm

    Do the peevers who object to the verb "parent" object to "mother"? How about "father"? Of course, traditionally mothering and fathering described very different things. Perhaps the peevers want to keep the gender roles distinct, and that's what leads to the peeve.

    BTW, A rhetorical strategy, really? What is the aim of this so-called strategy?

  13. Chas Belov said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 12:44 am

    While we're at it, I see the verb "verb" as in to turn a noun into a verb goes back at least to 1928 per the OED. Calvin's verb "wierd" as in "to make wierd" is not listed but there is a "wierd" verb usages that goes back to around 1300. "Noun" is not listed in the OED as a verb.

  14. Ouen said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 1:38 am

    It's ok to have peeves or preferences for different usages as long as you don't insist that you're preferred usage is the only one that should be used. I have no problem with the word but I suspect there are a few reasons why someone might not like the term 'to parent'. The word sounds a bit cold and impersonal, too much like an abstract process. The word is too vague. The word brings to mind parenting guides, and trendy kinds of parenting advocated by parenting experts.

  15. Philip Taylor said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 3:19 am

    Spot on, Ouen, spot on.

  16. Monscampus said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 5:44 am

    What is referred to as *verbing* above is only one feature of a larger phenomenon in English (British et al.) grammar. In my university days we were taught this was a so-called *functional shift*, e. g. verb to noun and vice versa, adjective to noun, anything to anything at all. *But me no buts* comes to mind. Apparently not originally coined by Shakespeare, as I used to think. To use or not to use remains the question. Peeving is very personal or a matter of taste.

  17. Rick Rubenstein said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 5:54 am

    Curmudgeons gonna curmudge.

  18. Stephen Goranson said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 8:32 am

    "Peeve" is so twentieth-century. Peevish people!

  19. Philip Taylor said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 8:47 am

    I would be interested to know what fraction of Language Log contributors are averse to change. I offer as examples my own refusal to abbreviate "technology" to "tech" or "pilot project" to "pilot", and the fact that I continue to refer to "sending an SMS message" rather than "texting" (tho' in practice I almost never send SMS messages, so use this phrase only in reference to others). I imagine that I am not unique in this, but I also suspect I am a member of a rather small minority, so would be interested to know how many (if any) share my dislike for unnecessary abbreviation and/or linguistic change.

  20. Theophylact said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 9:00 am

    Philip Taylor: Isn't "SMS" an "unnecessary abbreviation"?

  21. Philip Taylor said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 9:06 am

    Not convinced. I put "SMS" in the same category as "GPO", "IUD", "AI" and so on — abbreviations that are almost universally used in preference to the phrase to which they refer. If there was a period during which one habitually spoke of "short message service", it was very brief, whilst "technology" has existed, without any perceived need for abbreviation, for almost my entire lifetime.

  22. Mark P said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 9:10 am

    Many years ago, before I started reading LL, I might have agreed with Ulin’s peeve. These days I try to check my preferences at the door. I have my peeves, but I don’t pretend they have any sort of validity. In fact, I recognize that some of my peeves might actually be some sort of incorrect, even in a descriptive world.

  23. Philip Taylor said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 9:19 am

    Also (this thought came to me only after I had posted my previous comment), I think that I have no innate distaste for multi-word phrases being abbreviated to their initial letters — my distaste (in this context) is reserved for what I regard as the totally unnecessary foreshortening of individual words ("technology" -> "tech", "pharma{ceutical|cology|<whatever>} -> "pharma", and phrases to their first words ("pilot project" -> "pilot", "world championships…" -> "worlds", etc). Life is surely not so short, nor time so precious, that we cannot afford to spell out these words and phrases in full.

  24. Bloix said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 9:29 am

    "trendy kinds of parenting advocated by parenting experts" = recognizing that fathers as well as mothers can do the practical and emotional work of raising children.

  25. Bloix said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 9:44 am

    PS – "to effect" is a recent Americanism? It's my experience that effect as a verb is much more common in British English; Americans prefer effectuate. Shakespeare, 3 Henry VI: "And then to Brittany I'll cross the sea to effect this marriage, so it please my lord."

  26. Bloix said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 9:58 am

    Philip Taylor- totes agree. Also, we should say and write association football, and boatswain, and omnibus, and taximeter cab.

  27. Philip Taylor said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 10:03 am

    "taximeter cabriolet" surely, Sir ? (P.S., horrified — do people really say 'effectuate' ?).

  28. rosie said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 10:13 am

    I have many opinions which you'd call peeves — that is, opinions you'd disagree with — but I think this one deserves space here: I disagree with the binary notion that there are only two possible stances: one, accepting every new feature of language usage, and one, disapproving of them all. This binary notion is the logical consequence of inferring, from a writer's disapproval of one new feature, that this writer must thus be an ignorant peever who disapproves of them all.

    The usage that bugs Craig is one I too dislike. But that's because (being a verbing) that usage makes the sentence harder to parse than it need be, but there's already a way to say what that sentence means. As Craig points out. I'm all for new usages, if greater ease of expressing the speaker's meaning is enough compensation for the extra effort listeners need, to understand.

  29. Scott P. said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 10:35 am

    Interesting. I perceive 'technology' and 'tech' to sometimes have different meanings, depending on context. When referring to an abstract body of knowledge, I'd use technology. When referring to one or more actual machines, I'd use tech. So the Bessemer Conversion Process is 'technology', while ten Bessemer Converters would be 'tech'.

  30. Ouen said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 10:40 am

    @Bloix Right, exactly. Again I have no problem with “parenting” and was trying to think of reasons why people might prefer not to use it.

  31. Bloix said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 11:09 am

    Philip Taylor – Touché for taximeter cabriolet. My reaction to your comment was that cabriolet surely was shortened to cab decades before the invention of the taximeter, and indeed it was – 1820s for cab, 1890s for the invention – but there are examples of taximeter cabriolet, so you are correct. The surprising implication (surprising to me, at least) is that as late at the turn of the last century, cab was felt to be an informal clipping, not a separate word that could stand on its own four wheels.
    Now it's time for me to get to work. Today is baking day (what a trendy pandemic thing to do, I know). I'm making a few loaves we'll drop off at friends' houses this afternoon as New Years presents.
    But first a word on effectuate – it's been in use on both sides of the Atlantic for a long time, especially but not solely in legal and business contexts. The OED's first citation is 1580.

  32. Jerry Friedman said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 12:14 pm

    Has anyone studied what nouns get verbed? Seeing the verb "feature", which has the noun suffix -ure, made me wonder whether any suffixes get in the way of verbing. There are other verbs with that suffix, such as "picture" and "pressure", and some with -tion, such as "ration", "station", and "position"—but are there any verbs with the suffix -ness?

    rosie: I suspect that the effort of learning new words varies from person to person and that for most people, the effort of learning the noun "ask" (which I dislike) was quite small.

  33. Richard Hershberger said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 12:15 pm

    @rosie: There is nothing wrong with having aesthetic preferences, Nor is there anything wrong with acting on these preferences, to the extent that they are not imposed on others. There are certain sorts of music I like, certain sorts I dislike, and others that inspire only indifference. In private moments, I listen to the music I like. I do not insist that others listen to, nor that they eschew music I dislike. As for judging them for their appalling taste, I do this only quietly, keeping it to myself. The same applies to linguistic aesthetic judgments.

    As for mocking peevers, in the instant case he is being mocked not because he rejects something for being new, but for rejecting as new something that has been around for centuries. The mocking is for his conspicuous display or ignorance.

  34. Richard Hershberger said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 12:17 pm

    @Bloix: These sorts of clippings are just what we would expect from the mobile vulgus.

  35. Philip Taylor said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 12:23 pm

    Well, at least you didn't write the hoi polloi, Richard …

  36. Robert Coren said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 12:32 pm

    @Jerry Friedman: Well, there's witness, but that's probably not the "property of" -ness.

  37. Doug said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 12:37 pm

    @Jerry Friedman
    "are there any verbs with the suffix -ness?"

    "Witness" might qualify, if that's the same "-ness" on the end. seems to think so.

    But you were probably looking for a recent formation.

  38. Doug said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 12:39 pm

    Sorry Robert Coren, your comment had not appeared yet when I began typing mine.

  39. Jason M said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 12:49 pm

    Is no one going to follow up on the rear/raise peeve? It was ironic — as it so often is in prescriptivist lamentations — to have one prescriptivist trigger another. @Philip Taylor claims not to have been parented but to have been raised, but @Stephen Hart brought up that some prescriptivists (eg, the man who fathered and parented me and tasked me with proper English usage) who insist you can raise only non-human animals.

  40. Philip Anderson said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 12:50 pm

    @Philip Taylor
    It might also be interesting to discover if a resistance to change is really as age-related as is usually believed, and to what extent someone is merely conservative in their (deliberate choice of word) own usage or actively criticises others. I agree it’s not necessarily a binary position.
    I am hardly a youngster, but working in a tech industry I meet many neologisms and buzzwords, some of which do jar but not just because they are new; but I don’t bat an eyelid at others such as task as a verb. Hex meaning base 16 makes me smile though.

  41. Philip Taylor said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 12:52 pm

    "are there any verbs with the suffix -ness ?"

    "Harness" — one harnesses a horse, for example.

  42. Philip Taylor said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 12:56 pm

    Jason — "raise" / "rear" may be an <Am.E> / <Br.E> distinction. In the UK, we raise children but rear cattle.

  43. RfP said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 2:01 pm

    Here in California, anyway, it’s quite common for people to say they were “born and raised” in a specific locality.

    I have yet to encounter someone who would say “born and reared” in that context.

  44. Peter Grubtal said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 2:28 pm

    Philip Taylor
    Congratulations for putting your head above the parapet.
    I think it the most natural thing in the world to be peeved at changed usage. It can with some justification be perceived as a threat to communication and to ones own way of expressing oneself.

    Innovation in language use, it's true, is just as natural: but I suspect, at least as far as English is concerned much change is motivated nowadays by a desire to appear hip or woke, and goes beyond the normal, unconscious, changes in a language.

    A concrete example: "eponymous" has become very fashionable over the last few years, especially in Wikipedia, but its meaning has been completely reversed. Up till a few years ago it was the "eponymous biro", now it's "the eponymous Mr. Biro". And just recently I saw it in a context fitting neither usage. The word's effectively been trashed!

    Yes, change is natural, but not when it's deliberately forced. I suspect if the rate of change in English were compared with that in French and German it would be found to be higher.

    A. Curmudgeon.

  45. RfP said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 2:54 pm

    I'm not hearing a lot here about how the ease of transformation from noun to verb is an important element in the agility of English. In particular, of the ease with which that language is able to develop compact modes of expression—even if some of the attempts to do this don't really pan out.

    I've been trying without success to find an essay by George Orwell in which he compared the vividness—due in large part to its brevity—of a typical English word for what happens when a forward-moving automobile forcibly brushes into another object, while continuing its path. He pointed out how complex this concept would be in another language—French perhaps—and I just now required twelve words to describe it and still didn't really do a very good job.

    That word is "sideswipe."

    It's short and to the point, and I don't think many people who had never heard it before would have much trouble understanding it. On the contrary!

    This example is different from the verbings, but I think they have something in common with it, and that this feature should be celebrated, whether or not it is noticed. Because the times when it isn't noticed are a testament to its extreme usefulness—even if the times when it is are perhaps a bit more fun to discuss than the weather.

  46. Philip Taylor said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 3:38 pm

    Peter — I confess that I had not noticed the change in (or loss of) meaning of "eponymous", but is it only in my imagination or has almost everything become "nuanced" these days ?

  47. Doug said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 3:43 pm

    Peter Grubtal / A. Curmudgeon wrote:

    'Up till a few years ago it was the "eponymous biro", now it's "the eponymous Mr. Biro"'

    Oddly enough, just 10 years ago another curmudgeon (Philip B. Corbett) writing in the New York Times made exactly the opposite complaint, saying:

    'In precise use, an eponym is someone who gives a name to something else, and “eponymous” describes the source of the name, not the receiver. So Romulus is the eponymous founder of Rome, and Daniel Boulud is the eponymous owner of Café Boulud; the city and the restaurant are not, strictly speaking, “eponymous.”'

    Where would I go for a ruling on which curmudgeon is correct?

  48. Bloix said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 4:05 pm

    Loaves into the oven in 30 minutes.
    Meanwhile- I first ran into eponymous in pop record reviews. Because first albums often bear the performer's name, reviewers found it a good alternative to "the Peevers' new album, The Peevers."
    From Wikipedia:
    "Britney Jean is the eighth studio album by American singer-songwriter Britney Spears, serving as the singer's second eponymous record after Britney (2001)."
    This usage may incorrect, but the horse has been out of the barn and away over the meadow for a long time now.

  49. RfP said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 4:12 pm

    @Bloix: This usage may have been incorrect…

    Fixed that for you;)

  50. Wally w said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 4:15 pm

    As for being averse to change or not, I have stopped correcting my kids when they say something like “me and Joe are going to the park “ even tho my mother rolls over in her grave every time.

  51. Philip Taylor said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 4:25 pm

    All joking aside, Wally, I am not convinced that your children will thank you for this in later life, if they aim to succeed in a society where "proper" speech is expected. If they naturally code-switch, all well and good — if they don't, then I do not think that a little gentle correction can do any harm. For what it's worth, my wife is not a native speaker of English, although she had been resident in this country for 25+ years, and I still correct her grammar and pronunciation on a daily basis if we are alone, or in company where a correction will not compromise her authority.

  52. Bob Ladd said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 4:41 pm

    Peter Grubtal:
    I'll bet the rate of lexical change in French or German these days is just as great as in English, but it's disguised because a lot of it takes the form of massive borrowing from English. A lot of the current language-going-to-the-dogs discourse in other European languages is about the fact that people are using English words where native French/German/Italian words would do just fine – and mostly just to make the speaker sound, as you put it, "hip or woke" (well, probably hip more than woke – I think the latter is more of an Anglophone concern. But that's another story).

    Completely irrelevant to my point, but it fits the thread as a whole: Near the top of my list of peeves these days is reach out (to) in the sense of 'get in touch (with)'. Apart from anything else, it completely ruins the Four Tops' 1960s hit song.

  53. Philip Taylor said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 4:45 pm

    I certainly join with you, Bob, in deploring the adoption of "reach out" as a vogue substitute for "get in touch with". I ignore, as a matter of course, any and all e-mails that are expressed in terms of "reaching out" to me, much as I ignore all of the e-mail enticements to "shop our new range of …".

  54. Andreas Johansson said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 4:59 pm

    I'm in favour of good change and opposed to bad.

    On the specific example of "tech" v. "technology", I was reflecting the other day that I now often seem to see "tech" used in contexts where "technology" would seem weird or change the meaning.

    The specific thing that prompted the reflection was a journalist writing about "tech firms", meaning Google, Amazon, and their ilk. If he'd written "technology firms" I'd expected that to mean a much wider class of companies, including the likes of Samsung and Boeing.

  55. David L said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 5:19 pm

    In US federal bureaucratese, with which I have some familiarity, 'reach out to' means more than simply 'get in touch with.' If, at the end of a meeting, I volunteer that I will reach out to X, it means I will contact X and ascertain whether they can assist with the thing that we were just talking about.

    Like any private language, bureaucratese has a certain sophistication. It conveys more than its detractors acknowledge.

  56. Noam said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 5:32 pm

    @Bloix should we be even more confused by the REM album titled (entitled?) “Eponymous”?

  57. Bloix said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 5:42 pm

    Ceci n'est pas une pipe.

  58. Christian Weisgerber said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 5:52 pm

    His problem with these words might be not their novelty but rather some vaguer socio-aesthetic negativity, as with most of the other words that he objects to. But citing the "verbing" process suggests that it's the root of his reaction in these cases, and I suspect that most of his sympathetic readers will go that way as well.

    This is one for the psychologists, but I suspect the objection due to "vague socio-aesthetic negativity" or some other emotional reason comes first, and only then a subconscious search for a rationale ensues. It's not the actual reason, it just checkmarks the requirement to provide a justification.

  59. J.W. Brewer said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 5:56 pm

    The whole point of the R.E.M. album (a best-of, not new material) being titled "Eponymous" was that the word was as of the date of that album's release (1988) already widely considered an overused cliche lexeme among rock critics. It was also sort of an in-joke because R.E.M., who were at that point 5 or 6 albums into their career, had never actually released an eponymous one. I'm pretty sure I first encountered the word in Nick Logan and Bob Woffinden's Illustrated Encylopedia of Rock, published 1977 or '78 depending on which internet source you trust (maybe '77 in the UK but a US edition didn't happen til '78?). They were British guys and their usage may have reflected a pre-existing house style at the London-based New Musical Express, where they were both part of the editorial staff. I'm likewise pretty sure the subset of Americans of my generation who became music journalists with occasion to need that word or a synonym were much more likely than average to have read that book. It frequently occurs (or at least did when I was paying more attention to the relevant genre of writing) in the collocation "eponymous debut," because a recording artist's debut album is the one most likely per industry convention to be eponymous, but the occasional existence of eponymous non-debuts means the collocation isn't tautological.

    The less pretentious available synonym, of course, was and is "self-titled," often abbreviated to "S/T" in lists of records that a particular retailer might have available for purchase or other discographical lists, although you wouldn't use the abbreviation in running prose.

  60. Jerry Friedman said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 6:51 pm

    Robert Coren, Doug, and Philip Taylor: Thanks for answering my -ness question. I agree that "witness" seems to be an example, though the suffix seems to have a different meaning from that in "kindness" and such. The "ness" in "harness" doesn't seem to be a suffix.

    I don't think the American "raise cattle, rear children" prescription has been followed much for quite a while. The OED says "raise" applied to children was "From 18th to mid 20th cent. chiefly U.S." Since the first citation is from 1744, it could have just said "Till mid 20th cent."

  61. Gordon Campbell said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 7:17 pm

    Ulin complains that the headline featured the word "tasked." Featured?! What is this heinousity? Feature is a noun! The OED tells this verbification started in the U.S. That figures. At least most people using it in the early twentieth century had the decency to enclose it in quotation marks. What next? "Host" a party instead of "play host"? "Text" someone instead of "send someone a message via electronic telecommunication technology"? "Milk" a cow instead of "extract milk from a cow"?

  62. Gordon Campbell said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 7:23 pm

    Ah, I see that Jonathon Lundell pointed that out that fact about "feature" already. Carry on.

  63. Roscoe said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 8:43 pm

    RfP: "Here in California, anyway, it’s quite common for people to say they were 'born and raised' in a specific locality."

    I can think of at least one Californian who's widely known for using that phrase to describe his upbringing in West Philadelphia…

  64. Bloix said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 10:54 pm

    I (an east coast urban type) was once in a courtroom in Houston. Defendant's lawyer says, "Plaintiff asserts that my client had a duty to provide services even after the contract terms were met. Your Honor, here's what we say: We didn't take him to raise!" And the judge nods in agreement.
    Wha-? I think.
    The judge rules for Defendant, and as she leaves the bench we can see her jeans and boots under her robe.
    If you understand what the judge had agreed with, more power to you.

  65. David Udin said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 11:22 pm

    I'll second @Christian Weisgerber. I strongly suspect that the degree of one's reaction to a neologism or usage change has a lot to do with the kind of people (first) adopting it. I think verbing nouns can be fun, but when some ignorant jerk does it, it just confirms my opinion that he's an ignorant jerk. Because reasons.

    Happy new year.

  66. Chester Draws said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 11:25 pm

    "trendy kinds of parenting advocated by parenting experts" = recognizing that fathers as well as mothers can do the practical and emotional work of raising children.

    Ha, ha. No. If only that was the extent of trendy in the modern world! In my high school students the usual problem is rather that neither parent is actually actively parenting, sometimes deliberately.

    But this is LL, so I shall stay somewhat on topic. This may well trigger some of you language wise, but I present to you "unparenting" :

    Don't worry, there is also deparenting and reparenting too:

    I went and looked at the Ngram for "parenting" and what happened in 1970? It's quite spectacular. So parent as a verb is recent, provided you think 50 years ago is recent. Since it is my whole life, I'm not surprised I did not know it was a new usage.

  67. J.W. Brewer said,

    January 1, 2021 @ 11:56 pm

    Re "born and raised," it's not just transplants from West Philly. Consider this SoCal exemplar text from circa 1988:

    Now my name is Dre the muthafuckin' doctor
    Rippin' shit up, oh yeah, and here to rock ya
    With some help from my homeboy E
    The criminal of the Ruthless posse
    Fuckin' it up, word up, is what we do
    The reputation of the NWA crew
    Gettin' busy because we're cold stompin'
    And we're born and raised
    And we're born and raised
    And we're born and raised in Compton

  68. Jerry Friedman said,

    January 2, 2021 @ 12:20 am

    It's not just native and transplanted Californians. Here's the first verse of "Farewell Song", published and possibly written by R. D. Burnett, but made famous under a different title. As far as as I can tell from this page from a site on Bob Dylan's sources, these are the originally published words:

    I am a man of constant sorrow,
    I've seen trouble all of my days;
    I'll bid farewell to old Kentucky,
    The place where I was born and raised.

    The first citation for the phrase in the OED under "raised" is

    1784 Let. in G. Imlay Topogr. Descr. Western Territory N. Amer. (1797) 362 We were born and raised in the woods; we could never learn to make rum.

  69. Peter Grubtal said,

    January 2, 2021 @ 3:19 am

    It's now behind me, but having been the victim of many management seminars in my life, I can't help thinking that the consultants are responsible for a lot of the conscious forcing in the language.

    One of my colleagues once aptly compared management consultants to revivalist preachers. They share the same problem: how to sound original in presenting a message which is obvious (to believers) and has been said many times before. Hence innovative usages and expressions.

    Yes, I am peeved to hear "next year we expect to grow our turnover by…".

  70. Philip Taylor said,

    January 2, 2021 @ 3:43 am

    Ah yes, "to grow" (an organisation, its turnover, etc). I think that I first encountered this when my wife was doing her MBA, and I tried my d@mndest to convince her that it was an unnecessary affectation, but I am sorry to report that I did not succeed. IMHO one grows crops but increases /extends/enlarges/etc. most things business-related.

  71. jan schreuder said,

    January 2, 2021 @ 11:57 am

    @Wally It's more likely that your mother would have said "me and Joe went to the park" She might however deplore the (modern ?) "and I" construction (already extended to "and he")

  72. Maurice Waite said,

    January 2, 2021 @ 12:55 pm

    Agree with Jerry Friedman about "witness" and "harness" not having "-ness" suffixes. ("Witness" did originally, but only in the obsolete Old English sense of 'knowledge, understanding, wisdom' [OED].)

    "To thickness" is a genuine verbed "-ness" noun—to 'plane or cut (wood) to a desired breadth or depth' [Oxford Dictionary of English]. I didn't know the verb, but I found it after remembering "thicknesser", a machine tool used for, er, thicknessing wood.

  73. Philip Taylor said,

    January 2, 2021 @ 2:39 pm

    Considered purely from the perspective of sound, "finesse" might also be adduced. But one should not ignore "ness" itself — it too is a verb !

    Forms: 1500s nesse.
    Origin: Formed within English, by conversion. Etymon: ness n.1
    Etymology: < ness n.1
    Obsolete. rare—1.

    intransitive. To form a ness.
    a1552 J. Leland Itinerary (1711) VII. 117 The Marsch Land beginneth to nesse and arme yn to the Se.

  74. ~flow said,

    January 2, 2021 @ 3:06 pm

    Late to the party, but the link is as requisite as it is obligatory:

  75. Scott P. said,

    January 2, 2021 @ 5:37 pm

    I went and looked at the Ngram for "parenting" and what happened in 1970? It's quite spectacular. So parent as a verb is recent, provided you think 50 years ago is recent. Since it is my whole life, I'm not surprised I did not know it was a new usage.

    My first guess would be usage in popular media. The first place I'd look is Benjamin Spock. His Spock on Parenting came out in 1988, too late for it to be the spark, but perhaps a later edition of his The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care introduced the term?

  76. Batchman said,

    January 2, 2021 @ 7:32 pm

    I would much rather hear someone say "me and Joe went to the park" than "Are you going to the park with Joe and I"? (It even pains me to type that.) One is a common colloquialism, and the other is an ill-informed attempt to be grammatically proper.

  77. Batchman said,

    January 2, 2021 @ 7:34 pm

    Apologies, put the "?" in the wrong place – another erroneous hypercorrection similar to the very thing I was writing about.

  78. Philip Taylor said,

    January 3, 2021 @ 3:30 am

    Oddly enough (but perhaps not a surprise to my fellow commenters), my feelings are exactly the opposite — I wince audibly when I hear "me and Joe went to the park" because it is simply an example of slipshod uneducated speech, but will happily tolerate "are you going to the park with Joe and I ?" because it is clear that the speaker is trying to speak correct English.

  79. Adrian Bailey said,

    January 3, 2021 @ 7:54 am

    Threads like this make me wish for more posts about Chinese.

  80. Robert Coren said,

    January 3, 2021 @ 10:47 am

    I can't speak for @Wally, let alone his mother, but my mother wouldn't have been caught dead saying either "me and Joe went to the park"or "are you going to the park with Joe and I?", and I don't say either of those things either. The latter, I'm pretty sure, originated as hypercorrection by people who had been scolded for saying the former.

    @Adrian Bailey: Nobody's making you read it.

  81. Bloix said,

    January 3, 2021 @ 6:25 pm

    "my mother wouldn't have been caught dead"
    This, I think, captures the status implications of subject "me and X" precisely.

  82. Philip Taylor said,

    January 4, 2021 @ 3:06 am

    Can you expand on that, Bloix ? How exactly do you perceive « the status implications of subject "me and X" », and how is this captured by "my mother wouldn't have been caught dead" ?

    In my own case, not only would my own mother not have been caught dead using "me and X" as a subject, she would also have been justifiably horrified had she had caught me using the phrase in that way.

  83. John Shutt said,

    January 4, 2021 @ 9:58 am

    I was taught (probably in middle school) that the first-person pronoun should always go last in a list as a matter of politeness, thus always "Joe and me" rather than "me and Joe". Kind of like letting someone else go through a door first (/After you, Alphonse/). Likely because of this long-ago advice, when I hear "me and Joe went to the park" it sounds inconsiderate.

  84. Bloix said,

    January 4, 2021 @ 6:06 pm

    Philip Taylor –
    There are some constructions that can't be uttered by any adult native English speaker – they are just not possible.

    "Me went to the park." A three-year old might say "me went" but an adult native speaker would not naturally say that.

    But many adult native English speakers say "Me and Joe went to the park."

    So what does it mean to say that a phrase which (1) is in widespread use and (2) is intelligible and (3) causes no ambiguity is "wrong?" – not merely wrong but horrifyingly wrong?

    It means that the phrase is a marker. The people who use that phrase are the wrong social class, or race, or geographical origin. Euphemistically, they are "ignorant" or "uneducated" or "common." When a mother of a certain class/race/place of origin hears that phrase coming out of her child's mouth, she fears that others will identify her child as being one of "those people." That's where the horror comes in.

  85. Philip Taylor said,

    January 5, 2021 @ 4:21 am

    Many thanks for taking the trouble to explain, Bloix — all is now clear. I think that the only place where I might seek to differ is in your use of "wrong", as in "wrong {social class | race | geographical origin}". IMHO, it is the construct that is wrong, not the social class (etc) of the speaker. The use of such a construct will almost certainly be an indication that the speaker is of a different social class (etc), but not (to my mind) of a wrong one. Such a social class may not be a class into which I have any desire to enter, but that does not make it wrong, just different.

  86. Daniel said,

    January 5, 2021 @ 5:55 pm

    Here is an N-gram that may clarify what is grating David Ulin.
    Although he doesn't explicitly say it, I suspect what grates him is the phrase "tasked with". This was extremely uncommon before it started growing exponentially in the 1960s. Now, the majority of times the word "tasked" is employed, it is followed by "with".

  87. Jerry Friedman said,

    January 6, 2021 @ 4:15 pm

    Maurice Waits: Thanks for mentioning the verb "thickness".

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