language change and slang Live English

Still medalling and podiuming, and finalling too

© SUPERSTOCKAnother Olympics, another controversy about nouns having the effrontery to turn themselves into verbs. As well as medalling and podiuming, the world’s elite athletes have been final(l)ing, golding, silvering and bronzing away like mad, not to mention the spectators who have been spectating without a thought for the linguistic outrages being committed by commentators and contestants alike.

No matter how many times it is pointed out that turning verbs into nouns and nouns into verbs is a feature of the English language that has been around as long as the language itself, there is always much harumphing from those who haven’t noticed this and are keen to share their outrage about ‘made-up verbs’. This seems to be the case even when the verbs have been around for some time: medal as a verb has been attested since 1966, podium since 1992, while spectate, a back formation from the noun spectator, has been used since the early 18th century. Or perhaps the peevers were equally enraged back in the 1960s and 1990s and even the 1700s but didn’t have Twitter as an outlet.



I hadn’t picked up on final being used as a verb, but here are some citations from the enTenTen13 corpus that show it it in use:

Dan Wallace finaled in the World Championships.
I’d finalled in ’07 and had put way too much pressure on myself to do it again.
We’d like to congratulate Laura Landers for once again finaling on Purely Rey.
One of the top highlights was finalling in BRAVA/RT’s Writing with the Stars contest.

As for the verbs to gold, silver and bronze, I have to confess these too have passed me by, though of course bronze and silver have been used as verbs for centuries with other meanings. Here are a few corpus examples of the sporting use:

Had he golded at 400m, 800m and 1500m, then we’d be talking a legend.
At both Olympics she silvered in the 4x100m medley relay.
Hoping to “bronze out,” he managed to one-up himself to actually earn a silver medal.

Soon the Olympics will be over, the excitable commentators will put their hyperboles away and we can all go back to worrying about other things. But while it lasts, could I just end by mentioning that Team GB are doing rather well? Dare we hope that the quadrennial cycle of high hopes followed by bitter disappointment is over for good?

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Liz Potter

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