PDF as a Verb

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Feb 3 20:31:26 UTC 2006

>         PDF, or Portable Document Format, is the document format used by
>Adobe Acrobat and various other types of software.  I've noticed
>recently that it has become increasingly popular as a verb, meaning to
>scan a document and transmit the resulting PDF file.
>         I wrote the foregoing before I checked Westlaw for early uses in
>the press.  I did not expect to confirm so specifically the prediction
>from this 6/15/1993 Associated Press story:
>         <<A California software maker has come up with a way to let
>computers that have never before been on speaking terms to
>electronically share documents, pictures, graphics and a wealth of other
>         A program released Tuesday by Adobe Systems Inc. called Acrobat
>lets documents cross all computer boundaries, including brand of
>machine, operating system, display screen, originating program, colors
>and even typefaces.
>         . . . .
>         ''Everything can now be sent around the company
>electronically.'' John Warnock, Adobe's chief executive officer, said in
>an interview.
>         Warnock hopes Acrobat has such a major impact on offices that it
>adds a new verb, ''PDFing,'' to the business vocabulary, just the way
>''FedEx'' has come to mean overnight shipping.

One difference is that "to FedEx", which does indeed mean 'to ship by
an express/overnight service" doesn't build in the company name, so
it's a true example of incipient genericide (like "to xerox" was),
while "to PDF" still assumes the Adobe program and hence isn't a true
generic--it's more like "to google", which for most people does
involve utilizing Google itself, rather than just any old search
engine--at least for now.


>         PDF is short for Portable Document Format, the function that
>makes the compatibility possible.>>
>         The term did not catch on immediately.  The next example I see
>is from Google Groups, 3/31/1996:  "I have made pdf's from every
>application on my machine and even gone back into my past work and pdf'd
>some old dwg/dxf files."

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