By Nick da Costa
My early morning scanning of Facebook was marred by a post where the text began ‘My friend recently gifted me this….’
No. No. No. Your friend did not ‘gift’ you anything. They ‘gave’ you the item.
Apologies to my rapidly diminishing band of American friends, but this disease of turning nouns into verbs must STOP. I have written of this before.
There are, of course, many instances where the same word can double both as noun and verb, the word ‘trump’ being a case in point.
‘Trump’ used as a verb meaning to better someone’s card hand or, as in a noun ‘I drew a trump.’ Used more broadly, to ‘trump’ someone can mean to defeat or better them. Checking Webster to be sure of my ground, I notice they have recently extended its meaning to include ‘moron’ – but only as a noun.
Returning to my theme, somehow we need to halt the spread of this disease. So I propose checks at our airports where – following the temperature check for COVID – visitors whose natural tongue is English are shown a picture where Santa Claus is handing a present to a small child. Underneath, will be a multiple choice question:
‘Is Santa Claus (a) Gifting a present to the child? or (b) Giving a present to the child?’ Failure to select (b) would result in denial of entry to the UK and immediate return to their country of origin. (Failure to recognise Santa Claus to be met with summary execution, of course).
As a digression, I also checked the definition of Santa Claus with various sources and, I am bound to say, most of what I found is not only out of date, but deeply offensive to many parties.
Cambridge dictionary: ‘the imaginary old man with long white hair and a beard and a red coat who is believed by children to bring them presents at Christmas, or a person who dresses as this character for children.’
As you will notice, the first line instantly offends by the sexual stereotyping of the legendary character. It’s also ageist. And I personally take offence at ‘imaginary.’
Webster: ‘a plump, white-bearded, red-suited, and jolly old man in modern folklore who delivers presents to children at Christmastime.’
Fattist, sexist, ageist. ‘Jolly’ might also be suspect, since not everyone is.
By contrast, the Oxford dictionary is almost the apotheosis of wokeness:
‘In nursery language, the name of an imaginary personage, who is supposed, in the night before Christmas day, to bring presents for children, a stocking being hung up to receive his gifts. Also, a person wearing a red cloak or suit and a white beard, to simulate the supposed Santa Claus to children, esp. in shops or on shopping streets.’
Wow. Hats off. This must have taken days if not weeks of committee work. It even avoids the ‘ageist’ slur. I did notice a small slip – the ‘his’ in ‘receive his gifts.’ As I write, electrodes are being attached to the heads of the committee as the transformer hums its way to maximum.
That said, all three fall down on the ‘beard,’ given that this for the most part excludes an entire gender (Please note the skill with which I tiptoed round that one. My rehabilitation continues.