[Ads-l] Nominations for 2014 Word of the Year

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jan 9 15:40:15 UTC 2015

On Fri, Jan 9, 2015 at 7:36 AM, Jesse Sheidlower wrote:
> On Fri, Jan 09, 2015 at 07:32:00AM -0800, Ben Zimmer wrote:
>> On Fri, Jan 9, 2015 at 7:25 AM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at att.net> wrote:
>> >
>> > A couple of thoughts --
>> >
>> > even (v.) -- from "to even out"?  If so, the definition doesn't
>> > include the sense of "to level" (make even).
>> As the accompanying gloss explains, it is derived from "I can't even"
>> -- this sense has nothing to do with the older verb sense. For further
>> explanation, see this piece (which also discusses the similar use of
>> "can" as a verb):
>> http://the-toast.net/2013/11/20/yes-you-can-even/
> Fascinatingly, it wasn't until I saw the ADS list that I realized "even"
> was meant to be interpreted as a verb here. I had always thought that
> this expression was elliptical for something like "I can't even believe
> you said that" or the like.

Just to clarify, "I can't even" *did* originate in that manner, but
the elliptical expression has been playfully reinterpreted to treat
"even" as a verb. The verbification of "can" is even more playful (and
more bizarre).


Ben Zimmer

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

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