Data points: verbing, back-formation 9/12/10

For the moment I’ve lost the particular citation that set this note off, with the noun catwalk converted to a verb, but others are easy to find — and lead to some other uses of catwalk (and dogwalk).

The story starts with the N catwalk ‘narrow footway or platform’. OED2 has cites for it from 1885 in various contexts, including in a fashion context in 1970 (this can almost surely be antedated; the compilers of OED2 weren’t looking for the different contexts individually). From the fashion use of the N comes an intransitive V meaning something like ‘perform on or as on a catwalk at a fashion show’ and a corresponding transitive ‘put someone or something on a catwalk, display someone or something on a catwalk’:

Dead Zoë [in the tv show Caprica] is so awesome because she’s one of those girls who’s always sort of playing pretend, so if she’s going to be a superspy or cyberterrorist or whatever, damn right she’s going to catwalk through dancing crowds and flip her hair around and act all dramatic. (link)

I hate to sound like a spoilsport, but even the scientists agree that the Higgs particle, even if it does emerge, is not going to catwalk onto the ramp amidst applause, and pose for photographs. (link)

London FW: When celebs catwalked for a cause (link)

[transitive] This exciting application to sunglasses from Chanel adds to the seamlessly never ending reinvention of this essential fabric [denim]. Denim is catwalked regularly. (link)

Meanwhile, there’s at least one other way to get a verb catwalk — by back-formation from a synthetic compound, either catwalking or catwalker.

First, from the specialized synthetic compound catwalking ‘walking the cat’, referring to a bicycle or motorcycle stunt in which the cycle is made to ‘walk’ (or, presumably, to the yo-yo stunt, though I don’t have any cites for this one). One cite for the motorcycle stunt, one for the bicycle:

[intransitive, motorcycle] … but yet theres so many flat long 3 lane roads that just taunt u. i cant even remember the last time i catwalked on the streets.,bummer city. [comment on link]

[transitive, bicycle] As I approached Robinston, Maine the skies parted and Geoff Slater met me as we catwalked our bikes for a few hundred meters before clapping our tired together blades of steel style before we continued on towards home. (link)

Probably there’s also a V catwalk derived by back-formation from the synthetic compound catwalker ‘someone who walks cats (esp. for pay)’. Certainly there’s a parallel V dogwalk:

[intransitive] A graduate of Kenyon College (where I dogwalked for several professors), I am adamant that dogs bring out the best in people with their honesty, effusiveness, and ability to be in the moment. (link)

[transitive] I have two puppies that are dogwalked by Alana daily. (link)

3 Responses to “Data points: verbing, back-formation 9/12/10”

  1. mae Says:

    I may or may not understand what you are getting at, but if I do, then a parallel transformation is the noun cakewalk into a verb. I google searched “cakewalked” (in quotes) and the first examples to come up are all dictionaries defining the verb “to cakewalk” — but eventually I got to some seemingly real uses of it.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      To mae: one of the (implicit) points of my little posting was that there can be several routes to an innovated lexical item. In this case, two routes to a verb catwalk — one by verbing the compound noun catwalk directly, the other by incorporating the noun cat, when serving as direct object of the verb walk, into synthetic compounds catwalking and catwalker, each of which can then be the basis for a back-formed verb catwalk.

      The fashion verb catwalk developed by the first, simpler route. So, apparently, has the verb cakewalk. Nice.

  2. Cyanide and Happiness roundup | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] peer pressure. Some other verbings of compound nouns on this blog: spit-bath (here), catwalk (here), guinea pig […]

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