Friday, February 18, 2011

More verbing

As I have previously noted in this space, even in these dreary economic times, one part of the manufacturing sector is doing brisk business—the creation of new verbs. Spotting them makes reading newspapers and magazines ever so much more fun.

A local bookseller sends out a chatty newsletter in which he shared this: "I arrive at the bookstore two hours before opening time to catch up on newly acquisitioned books." Why not "acquired," I wonder? I suppose it is in imitation of "requisition," a noun that got in touch with its verbal side in Victorian military lingo.

My ear picked out our old friend the back-formation on an episode of "Intervention," a TV show about people with addictions. A therapist warned, "If she doesn't get treatment, she will continue to compulse." Ugh. That sounds really terrible.

A columnist explaining his views on life and death said "This is a one quarter, one life game. When you die, you die. That can be discomforting for many (even some of my fellow atheists)." I found "discomforting" discomfiting. The New Oxford American Dictionary allows "to discomfort," but, like the ubiquitous "to disrepect," it sounds strange to my ear.

Sometimes verbing creates a gem. Discussing the Wikileaks brouhaha, another columnist pointed out that the leaks were all from liberal democracies. Where was the gossip and insider information from the world's more numerous authoritarian regimes? "Such governments do not customarily go to court against their leakers; they gulag them…or liquidate them."

Turning "gulag" into a verb by rights should annoy me, but it does seem to be the mot juste in that context. Just this once. If it becomes a habit, we may have to gulag that writer.

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