Annals of nouning (and peeving)

Ben Zimmer points me to a Harry Shearer Le Show podcast of 8/19/12 in which (16:32-18:50) Shearer rants about nounings he doesn’t like (especially from British English and biztalk): big ask, big spend, and fail. And then on ADS-L, reports of money suck ‘money sink’.

Big ask I looked at back in 2008 on Language Log (“My ask”, here) and fail in 2009 on this blog (with links to other postings), here; in both cases I reported plentiful hostility towards the usages. Now a couple recent big spend cites:

BHP goes cool on big spend (Sydney Morning Herald 5/17/12, here)

Obama’s war chest lags behind Romney’s $147m after President’s big spend on Bain attack ads (Daily Mail (U.K.) 7/24/12, here)

OED2 has older uses of the noun spend, then, all from British sources:

1976   Computers in Higher Education & Research: Next Decade (Dept. Educ. & Sci.) 22   About £21 million should be spent for universities on new machines, buildings and operating costs..with a spend of about £10 million for research councils for similar purposes.

1982   ICL News Oct. 4/1   On the hardware side customer spends are relatively high—typically around £3 million for an installation.

1983   Observer 16 Jan. 8/4   The battle for advertising spend.

Shearer, of course, complains that people haven’t used the perfectly good expenditure.

Then on money suck: Victor Steinbok (8/22/12) noted this quote on ADS-L:

In a blunder of Homer-sized [note playful use of this variant rather than Homeric] proportions, the Postal Service spent $1.2 million too much in printing one billion commemorative Simpsons stamps, only 318 million of which sold, Bloomberg’s Angela Greiling Keane reports. The findings come from a report by the Postal Service’s inspector general, which pointed to The Simpsons as a money suck. (link)

OED2 has a number of other noun senses of suck, but this one seems recent. Joel Berson (8/23/12) made the connection to money sink explicit:

I’d be interested in a discussion of “money suck” (whoosh! into the vacuum cleaner; 56,000 Google hits) vs. “money sink” (plop! into the sinkhole; 143,000 hits). And the Google hits strike me as fewer than I’d expect.

OED2 on the closest noun use of sink to this:

The opposite of source in any scientific sense; a place where or a process by which energy (esp. heat) is removed from a system, or some specific component of a system is removed from circulation and either stored or destroyed; a device whose function is to act as a sink. [from Maxwell in 1855 on]

But OED2 doesn’t have later figurative senses related to this one, in particular things like money sink.

Nouning continues to march on.

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