Verbicide (VUR-buh-syd) noun. 1. The willful distortion or depreciation
of the original meaning of a word. 2. A person who willfully
distorts the meaning of a word. [Latin verb(um) word + -i- + -cide
What a great word that I just discovered, thanks to Wordsmith
www.wordsmith.org which sends me a new word every day on the Web.
Well, sometimes it is new and sometimes it is an old friend. This one
has special significance.
I think that if I had my college years to do over I would study
etymology instead of economics. That's etymology as in words, not
entomology as in bugs. The bugs I could live without, but words
How did people first communicate with each other? I wonder whether the
first verbal communication came when a cave man looked at a cave woman
and said, "Ugh," meaning "When's supper?" A morning spent chasing
"language" through the Encyclopedia Britannica makes it quite clear that
he meant no such thing. Or if he did, nobody will ever know. Language
came along many millennia later.
The ability to communicate verbally is an exclusive human trait,
although animals seem to do very well at expressing themselves without
words. My Siamese cat always made it quite clear what she wanted
without saying a word.
I had a ferocious freshman English teacher at C. U. She insisted that
such grievous errors as split infinitives and comma faults constituted
crimes bordering on felonies. She believed in the purity of the
English language, and instilled that belief in me. I do not claim
perfection, of course, but a lot of her lessons did stick.
A living language is constantly growing and changing, but the changes
should make it easier to understand and more beautiful to listen to.
Unfortunately I think we are committing verbicide on the English
Two of my favorite philosophers, Calvin and Hobbes were discussing
language one day. Calvin said, "I like to verb words." "What?" asked
Hobbes. "I take nouns and adjectives and use them as verbs. Remember
when 'access' was a thing? Now it's something to do. It got verbed.
Verbing weirds (sic) language." Hobbes commented "Maybe we can
eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding."
Nouning weirds the language, too. My pet peeves are converting
perfectly innocent nouns into verbs by adding the letters, "ize." to
them. Some are quite useful and date back a long time. "Harmonize" was
first found in 1483, and "to criticize" dates from 1649. Computerize
has become almost necessary in our modern world. But some of them
should be returned to the verbal trash pile, phrases like,
"perennializing your flower borders," "statementize your client," and
"the gullible reader who is easily suggestionized." All these have
appeared in public newspapers (not this one).
Some ventures into creating new language are hard to classify. One ad
not too long ago read, "Nothing makes glasses more spotless."
And then there are the pompous fuzzies. Interface is a technical term
used by scientists and computer nuts, but it is inaccurate when applied
to people. People just meet or talk or whatever. There is overview.
Over what are we viewing? Irregardless adds nothing except two letters
to regardless. End result makes one wonder about beginning result.
The 1999 edition of Webster's New College Dictionary is due out next
month . Some of the words which, like it or not, are now official are
dot-com or dot.com. But don't use dotcom or .com. It is hard to
believe, but you will also find 24-7, energy bar,megaplex, and -- oh no,
it can't be. My freshman English teacher would surely call fashionista
verbicide. So do I.
There are two words which I consider verbicide: prioritize and
proactive. Oh well, I'm in the minority there.
To summarize, let's prioritize our subject matter, irregardless of the
overview and proactively interface with our friends as we collateralize
our risks in this time frame and, as my Phoenix son says, "Boldly go
where no language has gone before."