April 12, 2006

verbspotting: faving or over and

A student spotted the verb "to or" recently. It was used by a librarian who described the operators one can use in boolean searches (AND, OR, NOT): "There's a lot of oring going on".

Another verb I'm coming across more and more often is "to fave", meaning "marking as a favorite". It is used on websites like netflix or flickr, where people can mark selected movies or pictures as their favorites. Morphologically, "to fave" is a conversion from the adjective fave , a shortened form of favorite (which itself, to make things more complicated, is based on a participle, i.e. a verbal form, in Latin).

In English, a category change from adjective to verb (V>A) is normally associated with an affix (to black-en, to en-noble, to solid-ify, to stabil-ize), while conversion from noun to verb (N>V), one of the hallmarks of English word formation (a bottle > to bottle, a mouse > to mouse over sth., a screen > to screen, etc.), can be affixless. One of my favorite N>V conversions occurs in Shakespeare's Richard II (Act 2, scene iii):
Grace me no grace, nor uncle me no uncle:
I am no traitor's uncle; and that word 'grace'
In an ungracious mouth is but profane.

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