Saturday, 17 December 2016

Word of the Day - Invisibilised

I was watching the television news last week, and was intrigued to hear Professor Rosalind Croucher, the head of the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC), use the word invisibilised. The ALRC is conducting an enquiry into elder abuse, and has just issued a discussion paper on the topic, according to the ABC News

Professor Croucher was being interviewed in connection with a news item about aged people being robbed by their children and other loved ones. "People describe powers of attorney as a licence to steal," she said in the interview.

In the course of her comments, Professor Croucher used the term invisibilised, which appears to be a nice verbing of the adjective invisible. 

But it isn't a neologism. It has been used for some years in a clinical context. Heaslip & Ryden, in their book Understanding Vulnerability, include a section on invisibilisation which refers to invisibilising of vulnerable people in care. Like this 

"Ahmed is on a cardiac ward awaiting an angiogram. Each day the hurses/carers come along to make his bed. Ahmed is asked to sit out on the chair beside the bed, whilst the health carers make the bed. They engage in a discussion about their own lives and what they did the night before. At no point is Ahmed invited to join the conversationnor is there any eye contact with him to suggest he might be involved. The health carers complete the bed and move on to the next bed, with a cursory nod to indicate Ahmed can sit back on his bed."

And the French verb, invisibiliser, meaning to render invisible, has been used since the mid-19th century, with much the same meaning. In English, according to the NGRAM, it has been used only since 1980.

So a word with a specialised niche meaning has been given a wider currency. The rapid rate of growth in use seems likely to continue, unless people stop invisibilising old, ill and other vulnerable people. 

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Word of the Day - Verb

Today's word is verb, used as a verb. I quote a Facebook post from Christine Mackenzie, "Is there any word which can't be verbed?" 

She gave this lovely example "The strategy, helmed by major shareholder James Packer." And in return Susan Bray quoted Shakespeare "they heroed me" from KJulius Caesar. And I said that I was too sydneyed out to think of an answer.

What is the answer? Perhaps we should accept the inevitability of verbing, and see if there might be rules which can make it possible to verb any word in the English language - as long as it is not already a verb, of course. Perhaps the last word should go, for now, to Anthony Gardner writing in The Economist a few years ago about verbing, or more correctly, denominalisation. Not the real last word - that will be the last word to be verbed. Gardner gives two nice examples from the sixteenth century:

Shakespeare’s Duke of York, in “Richard II” (c1595), says “Grace me no grace, nor uncle me no uncle”, and the 1552 Book of Common Prayer includes a service “commonly called the Churching of Women”.

I've decided to revive this blog. I will continue to look at neologisms, but I have become quite fascinated lately by idioms, metaphors, similes, figures of speech and the like. Send me your favourite examples, and I'll tell you all about them in this blog.

Thank you Chris.