This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Sanctions - a rant.

Oh, I know people rant and rave about verbification, which is using a noun (an object) to describe a verb (an action).

But of course it's too late to make a fuss now. Much, much too late. People have using objects as actions for...well, for centuries. At least.

Action words like access (as in an account) host (a party) email ( and, indeed, blog (okay, you've got the idea) all started off as objects and have now become actions, too.

To dress is another verbification, and, let's face it, we have been dressing ourselves for absolutely ages. Our whole life-times. Why, even my grandparents, I believe, dressed themselves.

But having said all this, the long history of verbification doesn't let you off thinking about what you're saying. Really it doesn't.

'More on the EU deal to sanction Iran's oil exports. A final decision will be made on January 30th on oil and bank sanctions.'

That's from yesterday's Telegraph. In the first sentence they've used sanction as an action, as you can see. Well, sanction has been used as an action for a long time, so what's wrong with that?

Well, absolutely everything, because it means exactly the opposite of what that quote is trying to say.

Look, sanction as an action means to allow.  And the sanctions they are talking about in the second sentence of the quote mean things to stop a country doing what it wants to do.

So you can't make a verb from the object sanction in that sense because it will mean the opposite of the verb sanction we already have.

Okay, yes, sanction (the object) is an odd word, and pretty much a contranym because sometimes it means a permission and sometimes it means a penalty (which is what has caused the problem here) but for heaven's sake!

It still doesn't sanction people talking nonsense!

Word To Use Today: sanction. This word comes from from the Latin word sancīre, to decree.

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