Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Medal that man

The changing function of some words in English gives certain people an attack of the shakes. Nouns like medal and podium have been used as verbs in reports on the Olympics in Beijing (for example ,"Chris Hoy has medalled" and "the athlete podiumed three times").

David Marsh, the style guide editor for The Guardian has written an article here about these uses and found that "to medal" as a verb has actually been knocking around since at least 1822.

The process is called conversion and we've seen it before with nouns like fax and text becoming to fax and to text, and with a verb like to ask becoming a noun an ask (as in football commentators describing a difficult challenge as "a big ask").

As David Marsh explains, some people find these shifts in function very upsetting and see them as Americanising the language. Others make the point that English is amazingly flexible, so why not just use it to its full extent?

Useful for:
ENA5 - Language Change
ENGA3 - Language Explorations

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