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July 14, 2006


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I would add to this that some examples of what you call 'anthimeria' are more easily described in terms of the utter ignorance of the user. For example, in respect of the odious 'leverage' (as verb), The Oxford English dictionary defines the suffix '-age' as forming a singular noun from the verb to which it is attached. To talk about 'leveraging business advantage' as our corporate friends do, is therefore as illiterate as saying "you are wastaging my time"! One does not necessarily expect the majority of users of the English language to be able to provide a precise definition of each and every common suffix. Nevertheless, one does expect that their experience in using the languages would have given them at least some intuitive sense of the meaning of its most common elements. Surely therefore, one would have hoped that the originator of 'leverage' as verb (as I guess there must have been someone who used it first) might have had at least some sense that there was something not quite right about what he was saying. (I say 'he' because its the sort of mistake that a male is more likely to make than a female - and I'm male myself).

Though perhaps even more worrying is the way that deference can reduce the critical faculties of those who do have a more intuitive sense of their own language. Imagine the bright young graduate who hears the vice-president talking about "leveraging business advantage wherever possible" and concludes that if the VP says it, it MUST be correct!

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