Nina In New York: On Verbalizing
A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.
By Nina Pajak
I’ve always considered myself to be a bit of a stickler in the vocabulary department, most particularly when it comes to office-speak. Of course, I clearly enjoy taking the occasional liberty with language, and I encourage all to do so. But I’m a pretty firm believer in the idea that we have a language, and it’s more or less complete enough that we don’t need to create new words to convey the same exact meaning as does a pre-existing word.
Take, for example, the word “gift.” Up until recently, I was under the impression that this was a noun. But somewhere over the last few years it seems that people decided that the phrase “to give/receive a gift” was altogether tiresome and wordy. Now people say, “I gifted him a magazine subscription” or “she gifted this watch to me.” Talk like this makes me dig my fingernails into my forearm and I am nearly powerless to my impulse to give my offending companion a short lecture on how we already have words that mean things.
Or how about “ideate?” Apparently this is also a word. It means, “to come up with ideas.” Derived from the English noun, “idea,” which is deficient in its lack of also being a verb. Equally infuriating, in no particular order are: leverage, decisioning, monetize, impactful and experiential. Honestly, I don’t think I can begin to define that last one. I’ll need to brainerate on that before I conclusionize. I’ll circle back and we can touch base.
I realize that I’m being a bit of a prig, but someone has to be. Or at least, I thought I was one of those someones until BBC News online ran a list of British gripes regarding “Americanisms.” Here are some of the standouts, to me:
17. “Bangs” for a fringe of the hair. Philip Hall, Nottingham
18. Take-out rather than takeaway! Simon Ball, Worcester
20. “A half hour” instead of “half an hour”. EJB, Devon
22. Train station. My teeth are on edge every time I hear it. Who started it? Have they been punished? Chris Capewell, Queens Park, London
29. I’m a Brit living in New York. The one that always gets me is the American need to use the word bi-weekly when fortnightly would suffice just fine. Ami Grewal, New York
36. Surely the most irritating is: “You do the Math.” Math? It’s MATHS. Michael Zealey, London
By jove! Cor blimey! Bob’s your uncle! If we aren’t picky picky across the pond! Who knew they were so judgmental? I’d always found British English to be charming and adorable. Now I’m angerized. Who are they to criticize our language? That’s for us to do! For me to do! Lemme at ’em! What in the Sam Hill is wrong with “train station?” And really, I’d like one of them to come over here and say “fortnight” to my face. I’ll “maths” them! Why I oughta…
I suppose things are all relative, and once upon a time someone grumbled when “barbecue,” “book,” and “host” got verbed. Perhaps also when “verb” got verbed. Even Shakespeare did it: “Destruction straight shall dog them at the heels.” But let’s be real—”decisioning” is not exactly fit for iambic pentameter. Then again, if anyone ever tries to make me say “full stop” instead of “period,” or “expiry” instead of “expiration date,” as suggested by two more grouchy Brits, I will earbox them and fat their lips.
That’ll learn them. Learn them good. Deal with that, Gov’na.
What new words tweak you? Sound off in our comments section.
Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.
Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.
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