". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

'Tis Better to Give Than to Gift

I've been seeing it for months now. I saw it again today: "gift" used as a verb in place of "give," as in "She was gifted with a new car." This time it was in my church's newsletter: "Today we will gift new Bibles to the third graders." I don't think it was a typo.

So, what gives? %-} Why not "We will give new Bibles to the third graders"?

The creation of a verb from some other part of speech--also known as verbification--is nothing new. But this particular manifestation of it seems different to me. The nice thing about being able to "access" a file rather than "gain access to" it or "pepper" your steak rather than having to "put pepper on" it is that both of those formations require fewer words, and economy of words almost always means punchier writing. But to say "We will gift" rather than "We will give" affords no such benefit. So again I ask, why?

As I thought about this today, it occurred to me that there is a difference in emphasis between "We will give Bibles" and "We will gift Bibles." "Give" seems to me to put the focus on the beginning of the action and thus the giver who performs the action, whereas "gift" puts the focus on the end result--the gift--and by extension the receiver of the action. So maybe the use of "gift" in place of "give" is a reflection of the speaker's desire to direct attention toward the gift and the one who receives it rather than toward the one who gives?

What do you think? Am I chasing a bunny trail here? Or might I be on to something?


Faith K. said...

I try not to think about it, because it's a word that irritates me. I heard it first out of fundie types, so I tend to see it almost exactly opposite as you. I find saying "gifted" brings more glory to the giver. You didn't just give... you "gifted". And oh how beautiful that work is! Not everyone sees it that way, obviously, so I try not to let it bug me.

Cheryl said...

"it's a word that irritates me."
"so I tend to see it almost exactly opposite as you."

Oh, it irritates me too, Faith. And I don't see it any certain way right now. I'm just trying to figure out what's going on and I can totally see your way of looking at it, too!

I think once the word has made its way into common usage there's less psychoanalyzing to be done of it. I'm not trying to say that everyone that uses the word "gifted" has some ulterior motive. But when it first came about I think there was probably a linguistic reason, and I'm curious about what it was.

Rebekah said...

I'm with Faith K--verbing "gift" sounds to me like, "I didn't just give you something, I GIFTED it to you! Because I'm such a generous gifter of gifts!" Anyone who gifts instead of gives probably lives in a home instead of a house.

Tena said...

Completely off topic here, but I wanted to let you know I had the pleasure of enjoying your hubby's musical talents at Doxology this weekend. I didn't introduce myself, but my hubby is the man in black who procured the Kurzweil (sp?). So they chatted a bit. :)

Thanks for sharing him for a couple of days. He plays and sings beautifully.

Cheryl said...

Thanks for stopping by, Tena! I'm so glad you enjoyed the weekend. I will get to enjoy a wives' weekend myself when Doxology comes to our fair city in a few weeks.

"He plays and sings beautifully."

Yeah, I can't believe I've had the good fortune to have him as my cantor for over 20 years now. He is indeed something special, and very little makes me happier than when he is able to share his gifts with the church at large.

Casual Observer said...

Interesting observation...where did you come across it, if you don't mind me asking

Cheryl said...

C.O., I'm not quite sure what you're asking. Which observation? Do you mean the "verbing" of gift? I can't tell you exactly where I've come across it other than the example provided in the post. I just know it's something I've been hearing for a while. As for the theory of why it's happening, that just sort of popped out of my own little head yesterday. I don't recall coming across it anywhere else, but I doubt that I'm the only one who's thought of it.

Elephantschild said...

I disagree with Faith on the reasoning behind it. Verbing nouns makes me slightly uncomfortable, but I agree with Cheryl that it's being used as a way to delineate what KIND of giving is going on.

In that case, it does result in less words used. It's easier to say "We're gifting Bibles" than to say "We're giving these Bibles as a gift."

Tangentially related: I despise the use of "emails" as the plural of "email." If we were British and routinely referred to "the mails" when using the word collectively, that would be fine. But in the US, "mail" is "mail" no matter the quantity, so I fail to see the email-->emails logic.