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

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Jan 9 16:03:44 UTC 2015

On Jan 9, 2015, at 7:32 AM, 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):
> https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__the-2Dtoast.net_2013_11_20_yes-2Dyou-2Dcan-2Deven_&d=AwIBAw&c=-dg2m7zWuuDZ0MUcV7Sdqw&r=wFp3X4Mu39hB2bf13gtz0ZpW1TsSxPIWYiZRsMFFaLQ&m=3pNmRA1qZFR5Vgr1xvCSXmC0gPCb0uM69XuRdDAhZG8&s=erxp5Dex43612d_Fdnm-AW1oKCfqOWzpH_b0EDuZ584&e= 
I'm still not convinced "even" is a verb, although I concede that showing up with an infinitive marker gives "can" some main verb props in the above.  If "even" were a verb, it would be a member of the very small class of "impossible polarity items", those that require not just a negative environment (I didn't ever do that/*I ever did that) or an ability modal (I can afford a nice car/*I afforded a nice car), but both ("I can't fathom/make head or tail out of that argument" vs. "I can fathom it" or "I fathomed it").  But "fathom" takes verbal morphology ("Fathoming that would be impossible") and "even" not so much.  If there's ever a case for silent material in the analysis (i.e. a "missing" verb), this is it.


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

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