Don’t know much about history. But I am always interested in the history of words: etymology (unless that’s bugs). I want to know where a word has been for the last thousand years. And often, the derivation seems a little far-fetched. In fact, the word “derivation” itself either comes from the Latin for drawing out pus, or from the Vedic Sanskrit for tickling a water buffalo. Either way, you’re left feeling kind of skeptical.
This Is How We Verb
But maybe you shouldn’t be. All bets are off in a language in which you can coin the word “pizzagate” and everyone knows it means “child molestation sex ring scandal involving Democrats operating in an imaginary Deep State.” I mean, what the hell. From “pizza” meaning “pizza” and “gate” meaning “the third syllable of a Washington DC hotel that got burglarized by Republicans fifty years ago.” A hundred years from now nobody looking up the derivation would believe it.
Derivations don’t have to make sense. Take “homophobic.” Some guy coined it in the ’60s. We know what it’s supposed to mean. I would quibble over “phobic” meaning “to be afraid of” since many so-called homophobes are not at all afraid of people they’re pretty sure they can beat to a pulp. But also, “homo” comes from the Greek for “same.” By rights, homophobic people should be people who insist on things not being too matchy-matchy, but that’s not what it means. So we’re left with someone who’s afraid of homos. And I think that’s kind of rude.
Or take “friendversary.” Versus means “a turning.” Anniversary is a year (“anno”) turning (over). Friendversary should mean “the act of flipping your friend over” or “swapping out your shitty friends for whole new ones.” But it doesn’t. It comes from “friend” meaning someone you met through Facebook, and don’t know, except that they have a cute cat. And “versary” means short for “anniversary.” So a friendversary is a commemoration of the calendar date you moved into a virtual relationship with someone who has a cute cat.
While we’re at it, that might have been the beginning of the wildly out-of-control new way to verb. Now you can “friend” someone and nobody bats an eye. I remember noticing it for the first time a few years back: “Let’s festival!” the poster read, announcing the Gay Pride parade, featuring street-wide banners reading “THIS IS HOW WE PRIDE.” And I thought: oh boy. This isn’t going to be the last time we see this, especially in advertising. Sure enough, now you can also pizza, meaning eat a pizza. (It doesn’t mean “molest a child like a Democrat” yet.) There’s a pharmaceutical firm that likes to say “This is why we science.” You can “brain better.” I’ve also learned there is at least one way to “woman,” and several wrong ways to “feminist.”
There are definitely several wrong ways to feminist.
Sure, people have been “wintering” in Palm Springs for years, but things are getting out of hand. Is this vogue really something to celebrate? Should we cake?
It’s all a little much, and irksome, as novelties can be. It is viewed by many as silly and contrived. And if you believe I am speaking less than forcefully, tough. That is simply how I passive voice construction.