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Are we turning German? (or, The rise of the dual word)

February 16th, 2010 Posted in Uncategorized by

The lexicon of government neologisms is a heavy and depressing tome. Indeed, politicians and bureaucrats have a remarkable capacity to speak differently from everybody else.

Remember Tony Blair’s ‘sentences’ without verbs? Or the verbisation (sic.) of nouns (the latter not unique to government, as anybody who has ever partied will attest)? When did encouraging and rewarding become “incentivisation”?

The latest fad seems to be in conflating words, creating one word where two would do. A couple of years ago the new anti-smoking legislation led to the creation of “Smokefree” zones.

Today I learn that TfL is to urge London’s motorcyclists to get ‘BikeSafe‘ while being invited to a ‘Smartmoves‘ conference.

The Local Government Association sought to discourage around 200 examples of local government jargon last year, but they seem to be fighting a losing battle against the forces of ‘newspeak‘.

3 Responses to “Are we turning German? (or, The rise of the dual word)”

  1. Stu Says:

    I take it from your unhappiness about nouns becoming verbs that you’ve never ‘chaired’ a meeting, or ‘tabled’ a motion? It’s funny how we marvel at Shakespeare for ‘creating’ thousands of new words, but complain about anyone who does the same in modern times.

    Complaining about the death of language is nothing new. The only thing that changes is the language used to describe the death of language grows ever more complex and refined.

    I take it you really meant to write ‘the dual word’ in the title, of course – as in, the rise of one word meaning two things. Not the ‘duel’ word:)

  2. Ian Eiloart Says:

    The examples you give are of verbification, not nounization. Party was originally a noun (from about 1300), but you’ve used it as a verb. Hardly a modern nounisation, though – OED gives it as a verb since 1586! The sense of a social gathering was a noun in 1700, and a verb in 1922.

    Catenation to form new nouns? OED gives a hyphenated “part-song” in 1731, and “Fish-wives” in 1622, and “fishwives” in 1867, and “fishpond” in 1604. This is a four century fad, if it’s (oh, look a 1611 contraction) a fad at all.

    OED gives a 1977 example for “incentivization” (The Times), and 1968 for “incentivize”, in a quote that will appeal to Liberal Vision readers.

    “1968 Guardian 10 June 7/6 You have got to appeal to people’s greed. The most successful station operators incentivise their forecourt staff.”

    “Reward” has been both a verb and a noun since the 14thC, though it’s hard to know which came first.

    Nounize and verbify (both themselves examples of verbification), btw, date to 1871 and 1813 respectively.

  3. Tom Papworth Says:


    It’s true that language is constantly developing. It’s just that some of these new words are so ugly. Thanks for noting the typo, btw (though I would happily take my rapier to the creators of some of these terms!).


    You are right, too. I shall correct it in the text.