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Stop with the gifting and just give

21 1 0
10.12.2019

NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT – Considering an expensive gift this season for someone you love? CNBC urges you to be careful: “What to think about before you gift a Peloton or other big-ticket item this holiday.” And if by chance you’re as curmudgeonly about grammar as I, you bristle at this casual use of “gift” as a verb.

Yet the usage is everywhere. “Holiday gifting made easy!” we’re assured by Nordstrom. Amazon offers what it calls “Prime Gifting.” U.S. News and World Report actually manages to use the word as verb and noun in the same headline: “How to Gift Stock and Other Financial Gifts.”

Grammarians have battled for years over whether “gift” and “give” are interchangeable verbs. It’s time somebody gave a definitive answer. And the answer this Grammar Scrooge gives is no. Except in a narrow set of circumstances — I will describe them shortly — we can never gift a thing to another person. We can only give. To those who would give a different answer, let me give you the gift of explaining why you’re wrong.

The use of “gift” as a verb has ancient roots. Everyone who puzzles over this conundrum points out that the Oxford English Dictionary attests this usage as early as the 16th century. True enough. The OED lists early examples aplenty. But these early examples share a vital aspect that’s been left unremarked by the commentators. Once we understand that aspect, we’ll understand why our current fad for “gifting” is misguided.

The oldest citation is from a British poem, “A Merry Jest of a Shrewd and Curst Wife Lapped........

© The Japan Times