Posts Tagged ‘Orwell’

Orwell Watch #3: Please. No “gifting” this Christmas.

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

Please.  No “gifting” this Christmas.

I’m not particular sensitive to nouns used as verbs, but this one gets to me.  I have consulted my Oxford English Dictionary, and apparently it thinks the fault is mine — it lists a variety of instances in which “gift” was used as a verb from the 17th to 19th century.  The OED bids me keep my petty grievances to myself.

But I can’t.  The sudden reemergence of the term coincides with a number of other words that have been recycled into verbs — I am tired, also of people being “tasked” with unimportant activities.  Wordnik has a list of irritations here, and admittedly, in the debauched wordsmithery of journalism, I am guilty of many sins on this score.  “Impact,” for example.

So why do “gifting” and “tasking” irk me so?  Perhaps because of what I suspect is the underlying motive in their use.  “Gifting” someone sounds so much more self-important than “giving a gift.”  Being “tasked” with some trivial occupation gives it the aura of high mission.

But while I’m at it, a recent article I wrote, interviewing literary scholars, turned up these clinkers:  One spoke of “foregrounding” different opinions. I had left the passage in my final article, but it made my editor throw up a little in his mouth, so it was deleted.  Another scholar spoke of “theatricalizing” such differences.

Perhaps we could “gift” people with a few useful synonyms as gifts this Christmas?

Postscript:  Clearly, I am in a minority.  A poll showed that most think “whatever” to be the most grating word, followed by “like.” As Jim Erwin commented on my Facebook page:  “Fail on currenting. Teh mos def gr8ting spelling now is, like, ‘Whatevs'”

Postscript on 12/22: An interesting, lawyerly p.o.v. from Max Taylor on my Facebook page: “Hoary legitimacy only makes the experience of words we wish would go away worse. Like the Latin ‘nuculum’ in which the embarrassing “nucular” might find refuge.”