Figure of Speech: anthimeria (an-thih-MER-ia), the verbing figure.
Bush’s nominee for Treasury secretary, Hank Paulson, will take a $38 million pay cut when he leaves his CEO job at Wall Street’s top firm. To avoid any conflict of interest, he will probably create a blind trust for his $700 million in Goldman stock.
The firm’s spokesman uses highfalutin investment jargon, “ring-fence,” to describe the move. That’s an anthimeria, a figure that turns one part of speech into another — such as a noun into a verb.
Language snobs who want to close our lexical borders hate this figure, because it’s a prodigious neologizer. Calvin in “Calvin & Hobbes” dislikes the anthimeria (he’s surprisingly conservative for a six-year-old). “Verbing weirds language,” he says.
It certainly does. But Shakespeare weirded language to form more than 1,500 neologisms. In an age when the average person had a vocabulary of 700 (today’s college grad averages 3,000), Shakespeare’s exceeded 21,000. If weirding was a turn-on for him (to use a once-popular anthimeria), it positively ecstacizes Figaro.
Snappy Answer: “Ring-fence Bush while you’re at it.”