Wednesday, April 02, 2014

The State of the English Language: an update.

Abstract: The English language is still going to hell in a hand basket. Evidence: people are still using the lovely noun "gift" as a verb.

Background: Readers of this blog may recall that I have, upon occasion, pointed to this abomination--using "gift," the noun, in place of the perfectly serviceable verb, "to give." E.g., and to wit: "This scarf? My best friend gifted it to me for my birthday." ( < abomination. Appropriate: my friend gave it to me for my birthday." See? Perfect!)
It's a scientific report. Like my blog post.

Data: I'm no linguist, scientist, social scientist, or shaman. But I keep hearing people use this infernal locution: "She gifted me this fantastic yak hair sofa." "He gifted me my own heart served up on a platter!" "The cat gifted me with this dead mouse." Etc., etc., on the radio, in magazines. On blogs and social media. It hurts my ears and my brain. Also, I was thinking about it while I was walking from my car to my office. So, clearly, and to sum up, the data points to a continuing trend of a thing that is abominable!

Discussion: While it is the height of foolhardiness to attempt to change usage, one cannot stand idly by whilst people say things that hurt one's ears, and brain. Even if not standing idly by means sounding kind of persnickety, grouchy, and middle-aged. And rant-y. One must take up one's voice, one's pen, and one's blog in defense of what is right: the right of a verb to be a verb and a noun to be a noun, and never the twain shall meet, just in this one case, since of course it is the God-given right of words to transmogrify into whatsoever part of speech is necessary at the moment. Just not gift (noun) to gift (verb):  that is right out.

Conclusions/Recommendations: If you are one of those who has upon occasion, or frequently, given this gift-as-verb shenanigan a trial spin, do the right thing, and quit it. Cut it right out. Take a vow and never do it again. And if you're tempted, remind yourself of the pretentious, ultra-fancy wannabes to use it. Do you want to be a pretentious, ultra-fancy wannabe? I didn't think so.

If you have never and will never, good for you. Be stalwart. Giving is a beautiful thing. So is to give, with its deep and honorable roots as a verb:

what a splendid, splendid verb.

Gift, too, has deep and honorable roots--as a noun:

what a lovely, lovely noun.

Say it with me now: and never the twain shall meet.*

*except in the case of gifted, which is the past participle of (yikes!) to gift (verb), meaning "talented." This is the only exception we shall grant.


  1. Just re-read this, last night:


  2. In the words of Calvin (as in, "and Hobbes"), "verbing weirds language."

  3. Me too. I've repented of my linguistic sins and taken the vow to never again use gift as a verb.

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