[Ads-l] surveil verb (1887) backformation of surveillance

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Mon Feb 6 16:22:42 EST 2017

Yesterday while searching for information about the Super Bowl I can
across an instance of "surveil" employed as a verb in the title of an
article on the Wired website. An interesting modifier was applied to
the verb: "Surveilled Hard".

Timestamp: 01.31.16. 7:00 am.
Website: Wired.com
Author: April Glaser
Article: If You Go Near the Super Bowl, You Will Be Surveilled Hard


The OED has an entry for "surveil" as a verb with citations starting
in 1960. The grammarist website also mentions instances from the early
1960s. Below are citations in 1887 and 1924.

Date: November 22, 1887
Newspaper: The Leavenworth Times
Newspaper Location: Leavenworth, Kansas
Article: Buying the Town
Quote Page 4
Database: Newspapers.com

[Begin excerpt]
Officer Goodell had spotted him as a crook, and surveilled his
maneuvers. It was learned that he owed for three weeks' board at the
National hotel, and had made no effort to pay the bill.
[End excerpt]

Date: June 1, 1924
Newspaper: The Baltimore Sun
Newspaper Location: Baltimore, Maryland
Article: Four American Negroes Are Expelled From Paris (Associated Press)
Quote Page 11, Column 5
Database: Newspapers.com

[Begin excerpt]
The official communique said there had never been any question of
expulsions "en bloc." Foreigners were always surveilled by the police
and those among them who failed to comply with the regulations would
be expelled.
[End excerpt]

Below is an excerpt from the analysis provided by the grammarist website.


[Begin excerpt]
The verb surveil, originally a backformation of surveillance, was long
considered nonstandard, and even now is still so new to the language
(the earliest instances date from the early 1960s) that some
dictionaries don’t include it, and your spell check might disapprove
of it. But even though survey is closely related, etymologically, to
surveillance, survey does not carry the sense to keep under
surveillance (where surveillance means close observation, especially
of one under suspicion).
[End except]


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

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