Take out the rubbish: When nouns become verbs
I am the first to admit, I am not always original but I do try to be topical and even then, perhaps decades out of touch. Bear with me.
The word rubbish used as a verb, first struck me about a decade ago when used by a most unsuitable boyfriend who said I had rubbished his apology gift.
The discomfort I had – with the word used in that sense, not the departure of the boyfriend – has never left me. And so like Mrs Chow, who wrote to The Star in 2011, I also have been curious to know: When did rubbish become a verb?
Never was there a question about its meaning, but rubbish making its way into the realm of doing rather than being has always upset me.
None-the-less Oxford Dictionaries defines rubbish the verb as (British English, informal) (North American English trash) rubbish somebody/something to criticize somebody/something severely or treat them as though they are of no value:
- The book was rubbished by the critics.
- He rubbished all my ideas, saying they were impractical.
Word Origin: late Middle English: from Anglo-Norman French rubbous; perhaps related to Old French robe ‘spoils’; compare with rubble. The change in the ending was due to association with -ish. The verb (1950s) was originally Australian and New Zealand slang.
Answering Mrs Chow, The Star explained that the offending word was often used in the Internet editions of some respectable British newspapers, and on BBC websites. It said editors were not finding it too informal to use in print “but perhaps it is too informal to be used in scholarly publications.”
The Star, provided these examples: “The theory of Scandinavian racial purity cherished by Hitler and the Nazis has been rubbished by new scientific research.” (telegraph.co.uk, June 13, 2008)
“A top historian has revealed who rubbished rivals’ works in online postings.” (guardian.co.uk, April 18, 2010)
And in 2016, I find these among the thousand of responses on Google.
- Guptas rubbish London news story – ANN7
- Hillary Clinton rubbished health rumours on Jimmy Kimmels show (Today Online)
- Bosso sale rubbished (Sunday News)
So it’s conclusive that rubbish is everywhere and having found its way into the verb class, it’s here to stay.
However it still does not sit well with me, and I will make every effort to clear it from my writing path. My only other hope is that rubbish as a verb will remain too informal for the scholarly texts.
But for the noun, which has far greater potential, a web dictionary provided the following rich alternatives.
jive [N. Amer],
folderol, (my personal favourite)
Now there’s no excuse for rubbish in your text. Use these words with prolific abandon to ensure no editor rubbishes your copy.