Saturday, September 07, 2013

"Gift" is a noun, "gifted" is an adjective, "give" is a verb.

I'm on my usage high horse again. It isn't all that high. As I've said before, I'm not some fusty pedant who worries about split infinitives or ending sentences with prepositions. I usually don't object to the verbing of nouns; note that I just used the verb "to verb." I do have my pet peeves, but I like to think that I limit them to instances where error will cause confusion.

Today, though, while reading a news report about a court decision concerning efforts to save Long Island College Hospital, which serves our community and where my daughter was born, I saw this:
The Wednesday ruling also required SUNY Downstate to account for the Othmer Endowment Fund by Sept. 20—a $130 million endowment gifted to LICH by the Othmer family.
--Sarah Matheson, "Ambulance Services Restored at Brooklyn's LICH," Epoch Times, September 6, 2013 (emphasis added).

The reason I've Italicized "gifted" in the quotation is that it's incorrectly used as a verb. It's an adjective that roughly means possessing greater than average intelligence or skill. The correct word in the context of the quoted sentence would be "given," the past participle of the verb "to give."

Why do I care? Because "gift" is a noun that doesn't need to be made into a verb, There's already a verb form, "give," that has no more letters than "gift," and therefore gives us no advantage in economy of expression. Consider, for example: "To verb a noun," thereby using the noun "verb" as a verb, has an advantage of brevity over "To make a noun into a verb." By contrast, "He gifted a book to his daughter" is longer, and clumsier, than "He gave a book to his daughter." Also, to use "gifted" as the past tense of "to gift" creates confusion with its use as an adjective. Would "a gifted child" mean a child blessed with talent, or one who was made available for adoption (not that they mightn't be the same)?

Addendum: I should mention that "give" is sometimes used as a noun, in a way that doesn't bother me. It's used as a synonym for "flexibility," as in, "There's some give in it."

Second addendum: Ugh!

It used to be. It's been dumbed down.

(Note the use of "dumb" as a verb. Very useful, I think.)