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Something up my sleeve

I always enjoy finding new noun-as-verb usages, ((“Unspeak”, of course, went the other way.)) and where better to look for super-directional linguistic practice than the Guardian‘s style Briefing?

There are various levels of excitement in fashion, with that for Prada at the very top end of the scale. News that the label is launching a made-to-measure shirting service has left members of the Briefing unable to fully function. ((The confession that members of the Briefing are “unable to fully function” in the face of this shirting news is no idle self-flagellation, as they subsequently prove: “This clutch is fabulously eyecatching, original and rather on trend with it’s adorned surface.” ))

“Shirting”, as I found out during my intensive research on the matter this morning, was already a noun meaning material for shirts, but it seems to be used as a verb here, which is new to me: the deal is that Prada’s “shirting service” will make you a shirt, ie it’s a service that shirts.

As you can imagine, I rapidly became very excited at the extra possiblities of to shirt. To observe of a man that you like his shirt, you might say “That’s a well-shirted fellow”; to make a peremptory demand for a shirt, you could sneer “Shirt me!”; in promising you a new garment, a tailor might announce “I’ma shirt you, motherfucker”. ((It’s interesting to note other garment-names that can’t be retooled in the same way, since they are already taken as verbs: sock, skirt, vest. (I suppose to shirt is most analogous with to dress, but inevitably more specific.) And what of the seemingly special case of to trouser, which doesn’t mean “to furnish with trousers” but “to put into one’s trousers”?))

I would only add one proviso to the global adoption of to shirt that I am confident is about to take place: one ought to make sure that a sartorial context is obvious. You wouldn’t want shirting to be understood as a combination of shirking and shitting — eg, calling in sick to work with a pretend case of diarrhoea.

What other nouns shall we turn into verbs, readers?

  1. 1  richard  September 21, 2009, 1:12 pm 

    Re: note 3, this was my immediate reaction to “briefing.” I was wondering if they could have been briefed while (or ideally before) being shirted.
    I lack the grammatical skills to figure out the full ramifications of “stocking.”

  2. 2  john s  September 21, 2009, 1:51 pm 

    In the United States, of course, we say “pants” where you would say “trousers.” The verb form is counterintuitive, though — to be pantsed is actually to be de-trousered, without consent. Whether the need for such a word is unique to America I’m not sure.

  3. 3  richard  September 21, 2009, 1:56 pm 

    …while in England “pants” is an adjective, signalling disapprobation or disappointment. E.g: “Did you read that latest Brown drivel? It was completely pants.”

  4. 4  richard  September 21, 2009, 8:36 pm 

    I’ve concluded this is just fine. I’ve seen “hatted,” “blazered” and “shod” as well as “beshirted” (or at least the analogous “besuited,” “bespectacled” etc). It’s time for a transitive. Shirt me.

  5. 5  Hey Zeus  September 21, 2009, 9:44 pm 

    twat is quite a flexible noun

  6. 6  Grokes  September 21, 2009, 10:51 pm 

    There’s suited and booted, as the Reverend Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Reading said this very day.

    I believe shirting service (also shirtings) is quite common in Indian English.

  7. 7  Alex  September 22, 2009, 4:15 pm 

    twat is quite a flexible noun

    And a verb. Though not, to my knowledge, an item of clothing.

  8. 8  Steven  September 22, 2009, 4:37 pm 

    I twatted* him because I was twatted.**

    * not “supplied him with a twat”

    ** not “wearing a twat”.

  9. 9  Alex  September 22, 2009, 9:55 pm 

    I find this twat quite wearing.

  10. 10  Jeff Strabone  September 23, 2009, 5:00 am 

    The trend is moving in the opposite direction, too. See the blog-ubiquituous case of ‘fail’ as a noun, as in Major Repbulican fail today in their policy rollout. Why ‘failure’ no longer suffices is a mystery to me.

    Here is a typical example.

  11. 11  Steven  September 23, 2009, 8:35 am 

    Why ‘failure’ no longer suffices is a mystery to me.

    I think the question is rather that if “FAIL” suffices, why bother to type three more letters? (But also, the two are not used in exactly the same way.)

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