At the time of writing I have a deep sense of accomplishment, for this week I have not only finished and sent off a short story about finding Richard III, I have completed my tax return!!! Yes, it’s true. It’s hard to say which of the two gives me more joy; the tax return because I no longer have to think about it, or the story because I’m happy with it. Mind you, a short story is never finished, only abandoned (to paraphrase W H Auden) so there’s usually a sense that the poor thing has been sent out into the world half-made up. Which, if you think about it, is appropriate…
Now, you may not realise it, but I have also been hard at work preparing for you a blog-post on the subject of… compound verbs! Yes, I know you’ve all been waiting a long while for this one, but my researches have taken me deep into the heart of the media and evidence-gathering has been slow and painstaking. But now it can be told: there is definitely a pernicious tendency to use compound verbs where nouns once served.
Let me give you an example:
Until recently, the person who managed a project was called a project-manager. But recently for some reason it is not enough for these people to say ‘I am a project manager’ or even ‘I manage such and such a project.’ No, they must contract it and say ‘I project-manage’. I guess they think it sounds more neat and snappy, more like something real and concrete – but to me it sounds awful. Politicians and managers are some of the worst offenders and in this pre-election period the verb ‘to empty-chair’ has emerged, meaning to leave an empty chair where an absent politician would have sat. And today I actually heard the manager of Poundland saying that in her stores customers ‘feel free to shopping-spree.’
I ask you! Isn’t that every bit as awful as using ‘party’ as a verb? I’m with Bernard Black on this one, when he says ‘don’t you DARE use the word party as a verb in this house!’
Quite right too.
To be fair, it isn’t all compound verbs that are offenders here. Some of them are perfectly inoffensive and even snappy and useful:
But I suspect that’s because these have all arisen naturally from a need to have something shorter and snappier. Whereas the others arise out of someone’s desire just to sound more on top of things.
Over the next few weeks I shall be compiling more of these. If you’ve heard a compound verb which has offended you, send it in to me here on this blog.
Keep listening, readers!
I’m off now to watch Charlie Brooker, so until next time –