Monday, July 30, 2007


Les liaisons dangereuses

I've always hated the verbing of “liaison” into “liaise”. It seems to date from the early 1940s, during World War II, and originally had the meaning “to form a liaison”, quickly extended to “to act as a liaison”. The usage was something like, “We must liaise our unit with the front-line unit for the mission to succeed,” then extended to, “Captain Johnson will liaise with the front-line unit.”

I've seen another variant of that usage, in which it means “to have a liaison between,” as in, “We've been liaising with the front-line unit for three months.”

As I said, I've always hated the word, but I've learned to tolerate it (what else can one do?). Only....

Now I've seen another usage that bothers me even more. It's been turned into a transitive verb that means, as closely as I can put it, “to bring [something] up, through one's liaison.” It's reared its head a few times at the IETF, something like this:

When we've finished working on the document, we'll liaise it to [another organization].

I do so wish we'd speak English.

Why can't the English teach their children how to speak?
Norwegians learn Norwegian; the Greeks are taught their Greek.
In France every Frenchman knows his language from “A” to “Zed”.
The French don't care what they do, actually, as long as they pronounce it properly.

Arabians learn Arabian with the speed of summer lightning.
And the Hebrews learn it backwards, which is absolutely frightening.
But use proper English, you're regarded as a freak.
Why can't the English learn to speak?


Ray said...

Why can't the English learn to speak?

[Brit Humour]
Being English myself, I would say we don't have a problem. However, you being American... QED
[/Brit Humour]

Dr. Momentum said...

We had someone on an affiliated project using the term "liaise" like that in emails. We ridiculed them for a full five minutes about it the next time we interfaced with their group.

The Ridger, FCD said...

We are speaking English. That's what English does. Nouns into verbs, and intransitives into transitives. Verb phrases become simple verbs, especially when the verb is something light and the noun is carrying all the weight. And you only think you hate it. You use such verbs all the time - they just got made into verbs before your time. :-D

Michelle said...

Well, I usually quite like the English language's tendency to evolve and grow, but there are some new non correct forms of words that piss me off, like "contracepting" mostly because it's usually used by conservative dickheads that are against it (that is, being in control of one's own reproduction by using contraception). I quite like "empowerful" thoughm because it's ironic :)

Barry Leiba said...

Of course, 'enry 'iggins, who sang that song, was decrying the misuse of English by the English, not by the 'murkins.

Dr M:
«the next time we interfaced with their group»



Well, yeah, but ain't it my prerogative to cavil these transitions?

Speaking of which, let's talk about "transitioning".......

"Contracepting"? Euuuuuuuwwww! I've not heard that one before!

The Ridger, FCD said...

Sure you can hate it - there are usages I hate (agree used without prepositions, for instance). But we are speaking English.