If it's not in the dictionary, it must not be a word

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Fri Jun 9 16:03:28 UTC 2006

On 6/9/06, Joel S. Berson <Berson at att.net> wrote:
> At 6/8/2006 07:03 PM, Bill Mullins wrote:
> >http://www.nasawatch.com/archives/2006/06/experts_agree_s.html
> >
> >Keith Cowling writes a blog called "Nasa Watch", where he criticizes the
> >government space agency.  Here, he's complaining about the use of
> >"synergizing", which he can't find in dictionaries.
> >
> >To the extent that his point is that NASA folks may speak in a way that
> >is obfuscatory, fine, but his example is pretty bad (and wrong, to
> >boot).  "Synergize" is listed as a verb in his dictionaries, and the OED
> >as well.
> >
> >Apparently he doesn't know that the various tenses sometimes are, but
> >often are not, broken out separately from the root verb in dictionaries.
> But the "vbl n" "synergizing" would be, if considered important
> enough a vbl n.  And the "ppl a" "synergizing" does appear s.v.
> "synergize v." in OED2.

Indeed. "Synergizing" also appears s.v. "synergize" in the 1909
Supplement to the Century Dictionary, so this is nothing new.

I've written about this for Language Log, and at the end of the post I
tacked on the great NYT illustration from 1923 that George T.
discovered and Jesse S. hosted.


--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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