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AWADmail Issue 304

April 27, 2008

A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Interesting Tidbits about Words and Languages

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the net

Crazy English:
The New Yorker

A Crusade to Edit America:
Seattle Times

When Language Can Hold the Answer:
The New York Times

Chat Slang Creeps Into Teens' Assignments:
Seattle Times

Centenarian Columnist's Californian Comeback:

From: Adam Field (adam fieldmusic.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--suspire

I just have to point out one thing - the problem here is *not* just that there are other ways to do the same job. The problem here is that these verbs were formed out of nouns that were, in turn, formed out of verbs. Thus, in each case, the best verb for the job is exactly the original verb the new one came from. Verbs formed from nouns formed from verbs are fine, but when the new verbs mean the same as the old ones, they're entirely redundant, and that's the problem.

On the other hand, when verbs are formed from nouns that were formed from verbs, and they end up with *new* meanings, it's all kinds of interesting, as seen in this Pinker essay.

From: Jessica Bibbee (bibbeejessica yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--suspire

I am currently studying Mandarin in Beijing, and just this morning a Brazilian colleague asked what the verb offspring of dirt was. With my English worsening by the day (as my Mandarin improves by the night) I was quick to respond "dirtify" -- which is even more complicated than "to dirty" (this came to me only hours later.) It seems I *verbify* nouns in moments of desperation, when my brain knows quite well that the word does not exist, but is equally unwilling to cooperate and produce the right word!

From: Donatella Fedrighini (fedriciac yahoo.it)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--suspire

"Grating on the ears" is a perfect description of what certain "Latinate constructions" -- as you call them -- are to me. I'm Italian (Roman, to be more precise), but I am a conference interpreter and I SUFFER when I have to translate such words (simultaneously; that's my job); not because it's difficult (Italians are even worse than Americans at the game of coining new words that they think show how learned they are); but because certain words are absolutely "grating on my ears". I think "neologizing" is a horrible word and, I dare say, a horrible thing. But then some people tell me that if everybody were like me, we would still be speaking like Dante or Shakespeare. (Well, so what?)

From: Shanthy (shanthy_tv yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--yammer

My five-year-old daughter was constantly whining today on my way to work and I asked her to stop whining. She said "I am not whining. I am just talking" and continued. Now, I can say "Please don't yammer" and she will surely keep quiet not knowing what yammer means!

Thanks for introducing a new word. I am sure ten years from now, my daughter will talk proudly about how early she came to know about the meaning of this word.

From: Andrew Pressburger (andrew.pressburger primus.ca)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--indurate

Derivatives of the Indo-European word deru- / dreu- (such as tree or druid) are echoed in the myth of Philemon and Baucis in Ovid's Metamorphosis (Chapter VIII), where the two lovers, at the end of their lives, are turned into trees with intertwining branches so as to render their love enduring; and in the story of the man enclosed in a tree who cries lamentations as the tree is about to be cut down in Canto XIII of the Inferno in Dante's Divine Comedy.

Recently we read of a tree discovered in Sweden with an estimated life span of ten thousand years. That is considerably more than the years of Methuselah. Does not the mythological story of lignification convey a greater hope than the image of "dust-to-dust"? Should we hasten to dismiss the druidic assumptions as humdrum superstition rather than a vision of the endurance of life?

From: Adam Britton (abritton crocodilian.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--extirpate

Conservationists also use the word "extirpated" to refer to animal and plant species that have been eliminated from an area or country, but where other populations still remain. This usage differs from "extinct" where all known populations have been eliminated.

From: Rudy Rosenberg (rudyrr att.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--extirpate

Good old Adolf! After the German bombers completely eradicated Coventry, UK, Hitler coined a new word for "extirpate" -- Koventrier: To Coventry. He then broadcast to the English people that Germany would erase all their cities.

I can still hear the roars of approval from the gathered crowds.

From: Peter Norton (norton xyz.net)
Subject: Verbification

A word in fairly common use, at least in these parts and particularly in the school district, is "certificated". It seems to mean the same thing as "certified", but perhaps I'm missing a subtle distinction. Can it be that a body certifies a person's fitness to teach, or perform some other certifiable function -- that is, vouches for that person if anyone asks -- but certificates that person when it actually issues the certificate? I can but marvel.

From: Lowell Larsson (lowell.larsson gmail.com)
Subject: Gratuitous "verbification" of nouns

Today I read the following quotation from a local college administrator talking about a parking rate increase. "Once you've stayed eight hours, it was the same rate, so it was meant to not disincent students who participate in extracurricular activities."

My first thought was, at least they are just "disincenting" students and not "disincentivizing" them. But then, after reading your comment this evening about the "verbification" of nouns in a modern workplace exchange I was wondering what is worse: to create a verb by "sumoizing" a noun or by "anorexiaizing" one.

From: Raj Bhrugushastri (rbhrugus hotmail.com)
Subject: feedback: suspire

I had a similar introduction to verbification when I first moved to the US 15 years ago. I was always confused with the verb "train".

Because of being educated in India with British English, I was never introduced to "train" being used as a reflexive verb. So when I heard someone say "I am training to become a nurse", I didn't know who the trainee was! Now I have trained myself to such (mis)verbification!

From: Anthony Flavell (aflavell mac.com)
Subject: Verbing!

It goes on in all its macabre glory, making us squirm with outraged delight. This is going to be a hot topic.

My current "favourite" business concoction is laddered, but sportscasters have some exquisite examples of blatant verbing: medalled, podiumed, and personal-bested (or P-B-ed, for an even more disgusting alternative). Then the military have their say with ruggedized and adjacentized. For a switch on verb misuse, NASA are now able to orbit a satellite, a manoeuvre magically contravening Newton's laws.

The music that can deepest reach, / And cure all ill, is cordial speech. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

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