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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Trainings, nothing more than trainings...



Wait, what? 

Your reaction to "trainings" may have been, "But that's not a countable noun; you can't make it a plural".

This subject came up recently in an online discussion among editors, and there was a lot of hostility toward "trainings". The usual sorts of comments about shuddering and teeth grinding and laments about how common it is, and should be replaced by "training sessions".

Someone felt that "teaching" was also not used in the plural, and expressed gratitude for this oasis of "sanity". This despite the fact that we have evidence of "teachings" from 500 years ago:
1542–3   Act 34 & 35 Hen. VIII c. 1   Suche bookes, writinges..teachinges and instructions, as be pestiferous, and noysome.
and no-one would bat an eye at a phrase like "the teachings of Buddha".

By the way, I hate it when people use "sanity" to describe their particular usage, with the implication that any new development in language (by someone else) is "insanity".

But the most intriguing comment implied that this irksome use of gerunds as countable nouns is something new. See the (partial) list above of very common plural gerunds.

Now, it's true that "trainings" is not as well-established as some of the gerunds I've listed above, but it has become quite common in certain fields since the 1980s, and there is no reason to object to it.  In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if 50 years from now some editors were to comment, "Training sessions? That's so redundant! Why say that when you can just say trainings?"

What's more, this is one of these "way older than you think" usages.
1598 I. D. tr. L. Le Roy Aristotles Politiques viii. iii. 384 It appeareth, that..it is needfull to learne certaine things, and to be instructed and trained in the same, and that these instructions and trainings be vndertaken for their sakes which learn.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Happy Birthday to... these words

Some words turning (at least) 50 in 2019.  Some of these are older than you probably think, and some younger. 

Includes a Canadian invention!

 As with all words, they may well have existed a little earlier than the OED could find earliest evidence for them.

ageism, n.

  Prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person's age; age discrimination, esp. against the elderly.

1969   Washington Post 7 Mar. a6/1   Dr. Robert Butler..believes many of his Chevy Chase neighbors suffer from ‘age-ism’.
1969   R. N. Butler in Gerontologist Winter 243/1   We shall soon have to consider..a form of bigotry we now tend to overlook: age discrimination or age-ism, prejudice by one age group toward other age groups.

autosave, n.

  A software facility by which a user's work is automatically saved at regular intervals. Usually attributive.
1969   J. E. Sammet Programming Langs. ix. 689   An interesting safety feature is the autosave parameters option which is used with save to request that the state of the user's work be saved periodically (and automatically) for later retrieval if there is an unexpected system shutdown.

Big Mac, n.

Compare earlier, apparently unrelated, use as the name of a hamburger by a different company:
1955   Charleston Gaz. 10 Oct. 11/1 (Advt.)   Introducing ‘big mac’ Charleston's newest sandwich A big Double-Deck Hamburger with ‘All the trimmin's’ 45c Tip Top Drive-in.
orig. and chiefly U.S.

 1. A proprietary name for: the largest in a range of hamburgers sold by McDonald's fast-food outlets; (hence allusively) the biggest or best of a number of related things.

1969   Life 14 Mar. 76/1 (advt.)    McDonald’s introduces Big Mac. A meal disguised as a sandwich.

biofeedback, n.

  A technique in which a person is taught to alter normally involuntary physiological processes, typically by using equipment to monitor associated parameters such as blood pressure and heart rate. Also: feedback so obtained.

1970   Jrnl. Transpersonal Psychol. i. 3   Gardner Murphy must be given due credit for stimulating and promoting bio-feedback research..and for his effort..to establish the Bio-Feedback Research Society, which met for the first time in 1969.

bot, n.5

 1. orig. Science Fiction. A robot.

1969   R. C. Meredith in Amazing Stories Jan. 130/2   When they got my ship the only part of me that the 'bots were able to get into cold-sleep was my head, shoulders and a part of my spine.
1977   G. Benford in Cosmos Sci. Fiction & Fantasy Mag. May 25/1   ‘What's your name, little bot?’ The robot squats mutely. ‘Bot?’ Gerald asks. ‘Slang for robot. You ask him.’
1992   L. Niven & S. Barnes Calif. Voodoo Game 252   We have maintenance 'bots in there.
2001   Time 19 Nov. 87   This Pentium-powered bot uses sonar sensors to keep her from bumping into walls..as she rolls along.

 2. Computing. An automated program on a network (esp. the Internet), often having features that mimic human reasoning and decision-making; spec.  (a) a program designed to respond or behave like a human (in games, chat rooms, etc.);  (b) a software agent (see agent n.1 5).

1990   Bot-haters Unite! in alt.mud (Usenet newsgroup) 23 Jan.   The following consists of a general flame against bots.

bum, v.7

orig. U.S.

 1. intransitive. slang. To have an unpleasant or distressing (psychological) experience while intoxicated with a hallucinogenic drug. Also with out.Usually in the progressive, e.g. in bumming on acid.

1969   Corpus Christi (Texas) Times 16 Oct. 8/1   Mullen told them he was ‘bumming out’ and was on ‘a bad trip’.
1971   Wisconsin State Jrnl. 9 Oct. 15/1   I bummed on acid, a bad trip... When I bummed I saw vampires.
1986   U. Zero Out of Step & out of Detroit iii. 29   Dickie came over one afternoon panic-stricken, bumming on acid.
2009   J. Delingpole Welcome to Obamaland i. 14   Woodstock was a toilet.., you couldn't get anywhere near close enough to see or hear the acts, and anyway everyone was bumming out on bad acid.
 2. colloq. (chiefly N. Amer.).

 a. transitive. To make (a person) feel annoyed, upset, or disappointed; to depress, sadden; to irritate. Usually with out. Cf. bummer n.7 1, bummed adj.2 2.

1970   Chicago Daily Defender 3 Aug. 19/2   The unusual number of hostile types around and the constant racket of the circling helicopters was bumming us out.
1984   TriQuarterly Spring 311   It's the thing about being captain that bums him most.
2007   M. Carter Accidentally Engaged xi. 83   Today's horoscope is not fit to print. (Really. It would have seriously bummed you out.)

demo, v.

colloq. (orig. U.S.). 1. transitive.

 a. To display and explain the merits, operation, etc., of (a product) to prospective buyers; = demonstrate v. 5c.

1969   Salt Lake Tribune 19 Apr. (advt.)    See the new 130 and 165 hp. Chrysler I-O. Demoed at Utah Lake last Sunday.

doula, n.

Etymology: < modern Greek δούλα (ancient Greek δούλη bondswoman, feminine form corresponding to δοῦλος born bondsman, slave.).

  A person, originally and typically a woman, who gives assistance to a new or expectant mother, either informally or professionally; esp. a person (usually without formal obstetric training) employed to provide guidance and continuous support during labour or postnatally.

1969   D. Raphael in Perspectives in Biol. & Med. 12 295/2   In working with human groups we note that the motivation for doula behavior is extremely complex. The doula may be assisting the new mother because she expects to be helped in like manner when her turn comes.

homophobia, n.2

 2. Hostility towards, prejudice against, or (less commonly) fear of homosexual people or homosexuality.

1969   Time 31 Oct. 61/3   Such homophobia..involves innumerable misconceptions and oversimplifications.

Imax, n.

Etymology: < I- (in image n.) + max- (in maximum n.).

  A proprietary name for a technique of wide-screen cinematography in which 70mm film is shot and projected in such a way as to produce an image approximately ten times larger than that normally obtained from standard 35mm film. Frequently attributive.

1969   Spectator (Hamilton, Ont.) 7 Nov. 24/3   The world's largest movie projector was unveiled at McMaster University yesterday. Known as IMAX, it's big in every way.

immunodeficiency, n.

  Deficiency of immunity (humoral, cell-mediated, or both); impairment of the function of (a part of) the immune system; an instance of this. Frequently attributive, esp. in immunodeficiency disease, immunodeficiency syndrome, immunodeficiency virus.

1969   Lancet 5 Apr. 720/2   It is relevant here to consider the role of the humoral and cellular immunodeficiency which is believed to exist in burned patients.

microchip, n.

 1. An integrated circuit; a microprocessor; (also) a tiny wafer of semiconducting material on which an integrated circuit has been or can be made.

1969   Science 11 July 104/1 (advt.)    If a 6 foot microchip sounds crazy to you, don't tell us.

microprocessor, n.

  A very small processor; spec. one based on one or more chips to serve as the central processing unit of a calculator or microcomputer.

1969   Mechanised Accounting Nov. 54/2   Central to the entire System 21 structure is the microprocessor and its various hard-wired microprograms.

plate tectonics, n.

 A theory in which the interactions of moving lithospheric plates  and the spreading of the sea floor are used to explain certain of the Earth's features and processes (as mid-ocean ridges, deep-sea trenches, mountain formation, seismic activity, etc.), and which provides a mechanism for the theory of continental drift.

[1966   Bull. Geol. Soc. Amer. 77 707   The folds and faults mapped at the surface [near the San Andreas fault] are attributed to raft tectonics whereby a passive surficial plate is deformed as it rides coupled to a moving undermass.]
1969   Science 4 Apr. 64/3   If one..considers continental drift in the light of plate tectonics, displacement of the Ellsworth Mountains can readily be explained.

Popemobile, n.

  A specially designed vehicle with a raised viewing platform surrounded by bulletproof glass, used by the Pope in processions or parades, esp. on official visits to a foreign country. Hence: a similar vehicle used by politicians, celebrities, etc.This type of vehicle was introduced for Pope Paul VI. Originally called the papal limousine.

1969   Des Moines (Iowa) Sunday Reg. 26 Oct. 10 f/3 (heading)    Popemobile. Famous parade limousine built especially for Pope Paul VI for his visit to the United States.

pro-choice, adj. (and n.)

  In favour of upholding a woman's legal right to choose whether to have an induced abortion. Also as n.: a pro-choice policy.

1969   Oxnard (Calif.) Press Courier 10 Dec. 7/1   Pro-choice and anti-abortion activists..headed to the Women's Clinic.

windsurf, v.

Etymology: Back-formation < Windsurfer n.
orig. U.S.

  intransitive. To ride a sailboard; to sailboard.

1969   Christian Sci. Monitor 17 Nov. 17/1   Depending on the wind and water conditions, older as well as young people can windsurf.

women's lib, n.

1969   Time 21 Nov. 15   ‘My twelve-year-old son has been hearing a lot about Women's Lib lately,’ says Ruth.

For words that turned 50 in 2018, see this post:

Photo by Brian Taylor on Unsplash

About Me

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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.