Campaign to add "concept" as a verb in M-W

Wed Apr 26 14:02:57 UTC 2006

        "Concept," as a verb, seems particularly unworthy (just what is
wrong with "to conceive," anyway?), and I think I need hardly address
whether M-W either should or will respond to public petitions.  That
said, I must concede, with some reluctance, that there are some people
who verb "concept."  Google reports 54,900 pages of "concepted" and
166,000 for "concepting."  Westlaw says there are 475 documents with
"concepted" or "concepting" in its Allnewsplus file.  The earliest
example I saw was from a 1984 court case that, disturbing, implies that
the verb is an established term:

        <<On June 26, 1982 Dentner authored a letter to Midwest
Conveyor, a competitor of SI in the materials handling industry. The
subject matter of the letter was a "proposed plan of action for Midwest
Conveyor's ROBOTRAC product." In this letter Dentner detailed the people
who would staff an Easton Office responsible for concepting and
designing ROBOTRAC components. . . .

        . . . .

        . . . Although General Motors liked the product, it deemed it
uneconomical at a price exceeding $200,000. Consequently, a priority was
set within SI to concept and develop a two-way accumulation system
priced within this parameter in order to fill the now identified need
within General Motors. . . . It is inconceivable to this Court that the
same defendants who were unable within the preceding 19 months of effort
to _concept_ the product were, within six weeks of their departure, able
to not only originate a concept but also to design and cost the same to
the point of bid unless, of course, they did so by misappropriating the
unmatured development effort paid for by SI. . . .

        . . . .

        AND NOW, this 1st day of March, 1984, IT IS ORDERED that:

        . . . .

        4. the defendants Scheel, Gutekunst and Ziegenfus are enjoined
from concepting, designing, manufacturing, marketing or installing of
any car-on-track materials handling system except as may be necessary to
complete the General Motors Livonia Plant installation . . . .>>

SI Handling Systems v. Heisley, 581 F. Supp. 1553 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 1,
1984).  On appeal, the court's injunction against concepting was
specifically addressed:

        <<Paragraph four of the preliminary injunction enjoins
appellants Scheel, Gutekunst, and Ziegenfus from, among other things,
"concepting" any car-on-track materials handling system. The term
"concepting", though it was used by a number of witnesses and appears to
be part of the jargon of the trade, is probably one that ought to be
eschewed in judicial orders. Our concern is in part linguistic. As
Theodore Bernstein has written, the tendency "to make the lesser seem
the greater and to enfold the commonplace in the mantle of science or
philosophy has had a debasing effect on the work concept." The Careful
Writer 113 (1977). The coinage of the nonstandard verb "concepting" only
makes matters worse. Moreover we doubt, whatever exactly is meant by
"concepting", that it is something that can be enjoined by judicial
fiat. A court of equity should not issue an order that it cannot

SI Handling Systems v. Heisley, 753 F.2d 1244 (3d Cir. Feb. 4, 1985).

        A potentially earlier use comes from the 12/1/1984 issue of
Outdoor Life (typos are copied and pasted directly from Westlaw - I
don't know if they're in the printed original):

        <<One of the most bizarre deer hunting experiences I know of
happened to Gene Wensel of Hamilton, Montana. Wensel, a nationally know
hunting authority, has bagged numerous monster bucks, including many of
record-book class (most by bowhunting). He is the author of the classic
book. Hunting Rutting Whitetails, in which he described the event like

        "It was November 1972, and I'd just finished studying a treatise
on positive thinking and mental attitude. I decided to put the book to
the test by 'concepting' a buck to come to my stand at a specific time,
9 a.m. After climbing into my tree stand at the crack of dawn. I began
drawing upon my mental resources to program myself for the happening.>>

        I haven't seen Hunting Rutting Whitetails, but some online
sources give a publication date of 1981.

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf
Of James Callan
Sent: Tuesday, April 25, 2006 2:44 PM
Subject: Campaign to add "concept" as a verb in M-W

The blog driving the campaign:

The petition:

The petition's text:
This petition is to be used as a vehicle to lend help and support
towards the Verb4Concept movement. Set in motion by copywriter Ray
DelSavio, the goal of this movement is to get Merriam-Webster's
Collegiate(r) Dictionary to acknowledge and add to it's annual, the verb
form of CONCEPT. By doing so the "Great Book" will more accurately
reflect the vast usage of the word in various creative arenas as well as
offer recognition to what, as creatives, we do on a daily basis.

con*cept (knspt)
1. Something conceived in the mind: THOUGHT, NOTION 2. An abstract or
generic idea generalized from particular instances.

adj. 1. Organized around a main idea or theme.
2. Created to illustrate a concept.


to con*cept (knspt) - con*cepted (knspt-ed) - con*cept-ing (knspt-ing)
1. A process whereby ideas are generated for the purpose of creatively
solving a problem: "The team set aside some time for concepting in order
to flush out some plausible directions."

The American Dialect Society -

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