defense = verb

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Fri Nov 11 05:46:59 UTC 2005

On Thu, 10 Nov 2005 20:27:44 -0500, Laurence Horn wrote:

>This is the earliest cite I found, from a story about the U. of
>Maryland women's basketball team:
>The Washington Post
>  February 12, 1977
>  SECTION: Sports; C1

MW11 dates it to 1950.

I recall hearing it used as a verb by a sportscaster in an NFL playoff
game last year and was a little surprised that he said deFENSE rather than
DEEfense. But I guess it follows the typical pattern for Latinate
disyllables: first-syllable stress for nouns, second-syllable stress for
verbs (default, discount, reject, etc.). A bunch of examples are listed
here: <>.

One recent addition to the paradigm is "embed/imbed", the third-place
candidate in 2003 WOTY voting. American reporters and newscasters have
tended to pronounce the verb as [@m 'BEd] and the noun as ['Im bEd] rather
than ['Em bEd] (even though the preferred spelling is "embed" rather than

--Ben Zimmer

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