Merchandise your food with pride


There is a new placard in our cafeteria which reads "Merchandise your food with pride". That's the first time I've seen the word "merchandise" used as a verb.

Here, I'll translate that last paragraph into management speak for you:

The cafeteria newly signed a placard whose read is "Merchandise your food with pride". That's my first see of a verbed "merchandise".

Earlier this year, I was chatting with a Boeing employee who mentioned that he "had to status an action item". I have yet to see the word "status" used as a verb at Microsoft, but it's only a matter of time.

Comments (43)
  1. Andrew Feldstein says:

    I’m sure you’ve seen other forms of this word derived from the verb form–merchandising, merchandiser, etc.  

    Assuredly not a neologism.

  2. Adam G says:

    Merchandising! Where the REAL money from the movie is made!

  3. Nick says:

    As Calvin famously said, "Verbing weirds nouns."

  4. "…merchandiser…"

    Merchandiser??? What’s wrong with merchant?

  5. spork says:

    When I was still in college in the 80’s, I worked a retail job.  This verb form was common usage.

  6. I'm an okie from Tuttle says:

    Double-plus good!

  7. Bill says:

    Spork beat me to it. This is common in retail.

  8. Miles Archer says:

    So, what does it mean? Sell? Promote? Take orders for?

  9. Dave says:

    It means either sell or buy. It is a valid word.

  10. boxmonkey says:

    According to webster:

    Main Entry: 2mer·chan·dise

    Variant(s): also mer·chan·dize /-"dIz/

    Function: verb

    Inflected Form(s): -dised also -dized; -dis·ing also diz·ing

    intransitive senses, archaic : to carry on commerce : TRADE

    transitive senses

    1 : to buy and sell in business

    2 : to promote for or as if for sale <merchandise a movie star>

  11. Alun Jones says:

    A spork is basically a runcible spoon.

    Lately, we have been hit with the word "operationalise".

  12. "…merchandiser…"

    Merchandiser??? What’s wrong with merchant?

  13. dave says:

    What’s wrong with merchant?

    He died in 2005, if that counts as ‘wrong’ ;-)

    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0580337/

  14. Mike says:

    "I have an ask to status them on the plan to merchandise the food."

  15. Andrew says:

    At the company I work at there are many ex-Microsoft folks and I blame them for the following awful construct which is now common usage: "the client’s ask is for us to do xxx." That one drives me bonkers. What’s wrong with "request" or some other noun that already means "the thing that they asked for"?!

  16. kokorozashi says:

    In a supermarket, an example of "to mechandise" would be "to stock chocolate next to tampons." This is a real word and (shudder) a real discipline. There’s a whole world of darkness out there in the marketing side of the business, and this is one of the least frightening bits.

  17. :: Wendy :: says:

    On my first day as a clothes shop assistant (1984) my first job was to "go and merchandise youre section".  I asked what this meant.  I got a ‘jargonified’ answer.  I said "Do you mean ‘make the clothes on display look pretty?"  The manager frowned and explained that merchandising was so much more than ‘making the clothes on display look pretty’.  I tidied the coat hangers,  dusted the clothes rails,  shook the creases out of them,  grouped them by colour tones and put the prettiest thing in the most prominent position.  I merchandised!

  18. Crazy Descriptivist says:

    As pointed out, "to merchandise" is not a new word. On the broader point, though, I love watching language evolve. It’s always disappointing to see someone who loves human languages as much as Raymond obviously does complaining about its dynamicism. Does the whole desktop metaphor of Windows similarly annoy? Talk about abuse of language…

  19. I’m sure they’re still preparing the "Cuisine your food with love" signs.

    Someone can then respond with "Digest our food without difficulty".

  20. KB says:

    "It’s always disappointing to see someone who loves human languages as much as Raymond obviously does complaining about its dynamicism."

    Crazy Descriptivist, there is nothing wrong with language evolution.  It happens.

    But this isn’t really evolution.  It’s misuse.  When the usage of a term broadly changes, that’s fine (for instance, ‘quote’ turning from a verb to a noun).  Similarly, over time subcultures branch new dialects.  But ‘management’ is not a subculture, and the verb/noun confusion that is happening here is not a widespread phenomenon.  The point of language is that it is relatively standard so that two speakers can communicate with ease.  When a clique starts developing and using arbitrary new rules, it undermines this purpose.

  21. Ryan says:

    I can’t decide if re-defining words means:

    1) I have nothing to say want want to sound smart.

    2) If I want you to listen I’ll use all the right words in the wrong order so you have to concentrate on parsing.

  22. Duncan Bayne says:

    Verbing weirds language.

  23. Do they still have blibbet burgers?

  24. Brian says:

    Ryan: a little from column A and a little from column B

  25. Crazy Prescriptivist says:

    Cut it out!

  26. ken says:

    I recently heard "solution" as a verb, as in "could you solution that issue" (and not in the chemistry sense of desolving a solid)

  27. fschwiet says:

    Reminds me of a design discussion where a hole was found in the solution.  We indicated the hole, the other team’s management asked if we could "architect a solution."

    We had to refuse of course, as we’re all designers and not architects.

  28. A Tykhyy says:

    Other people remarked before that English and Chinese seem to converge…

  29. Jonathan says:

    Verbing in Hebrew is more fun – you make the noun into a root (3-4 consonants) and put it into pre-defined structures. It’s especially fun with English words – לקמפל ("lekampel" = to compile), לפרמט ("lefarmet" = to format), etc.

  30. Justin W says:

    Not sure why people are so reticent to check appropriate online references, but according to OED, this term has been used since 1384 (!!!) as a verb, with the following definition:

    1. intr. To trade, to engage in the business of a merchant. Obs.

    and 1926 with this definition:

    3. trans. orig. U.S.    a. To put on the market; to promote the sale of (goods, etc.), esp. by publicity in retail outlets. Later also: to promote a film, pop group, etc., by the sale of branded products.

    This seems to be an ENTIRELY valid use of the word – it’s amazing how much criticism on the internet is caused by the ignorance of people who refuse to even make a cursory effort to check their facts.

  31. Robert Moir says:

    Gosh that is super weird. I’d be super concerned to see someone have an ask on doing that where I work. It would be just super super if we could stop using two words where one would be super ample.

  32. B.Y. says:

    The cafeteria has been Raymond Chenned!

  33. Crazy Descriptivist says:

    "The point of language is that it is relatively standard so that two speakers can communicate with ease. When a clique starts developing and using arbitrary new rules, it undermines this purpose."

    I agree about the purpose of language. But why is a "clique" a less valid collection of humans among which to use specialized language than a "subculture"? Do you reject the use of jargon within specialized groups or professions? If your audience is other people in the same "clique" who understand your "arbitrary" (is any grammar something other than arbitrary?) rules, then your language has achieved its purpose. If your innovations leak out into a broader subculture or the core language, well, how else do you think language evolution occurs?

  34. peterchen says:

    > "the client’s ask is for us to do xxx."

    even "request" instead of "ask" doesn’t fix that sentence.

    "the client asks for xxx"

  35. e.thermal says:

    I find all critism of language a form of elitism.  If the point is getting across then what’s wrong with how it’s being said?  Even things like capitalization is really stupid and unnecessary (but obviously engrained in us) Also merchandise was used correctly, it is, was, and always will be a verb.

  36. Satoshi says:

    it’s amazing how much criticism on the internet

    > is caused by the ignorance of people who refuse

    > to even make a cursory effort to check their facts.

    It’s more amusing to see people quote entirely irrelevent facts to support their bashing of other people’s opinions. 1384AD is long enough ago that the word could have faded completely out of existance and then come back into use several times. Although it proves that the word actually exists, the presense of a word in a dictionary is hardly proof that it should actually be used in common conversion. To pick a fun example, would you really expect any non-geek to understand you if you said "the neighbor kid defenestrated his cat last night".

  37. Satoshi says:

    I find all critism of language a form of elitism.

    Does this comment not describe itself perfectly well? Try saying it out loud to get the full effect. (Okay… I admit I’m being pretty smug here too)

    As to the word under discussion, I think it sounds overly stiff to me. There seem to be other, more simple words that fill any usage you would have for it. At first I doubted it was a word, but am not too surprised to find out I was wrong. As long as the meaning gets across I don’t mind, but I usually do prefer such plaques as "our insert-good served with pride". Although this isn’t quite the same thing, it reminds me of the more customer focused message "Proudly serving our customers since 80AD" (Roman Colosseum)

  38. Mark Steward says:

    Satoshi: you’re right, but the OED is not a word list or "difficult word" book – its purpose is documenting word usage.  Notice that the 1384 meaning is marked Obs (obsolete).

    It also says that the word defenestration is "chiefly" used in only one context.  But people pick up or reinvent old words – think of funk, rank (swept through the UK a few years ago) or overvote.  I know a lot of people who use defenestrate for serious as well as humorous reasons.

  39. David Walker says:

    "Does the whole desktop metaphor of Windows similarly annoy? Talk about abuse of language… "

    Yes, just who, in real life, puts wallpaper on their "desktop"?  Wallpaper goes on the WALLS, not on the DESKS, silly.

    Icons (if your religion doesn’t prohibit them) go on the mantle over the fireplace.

  40. Wang-Lo says:

    "I find all critism of language a form of elitism… capitalization is really stupid and unnecessary (but obviously engrained in us)"

    Uhm, that would be ‘ingrained’, meaning ‘thoroughly worked in, made a deep and indelible impression, worked into the natural texture or into the mental or moral constitution of; infixed deeply'(dict.die.net).

    ‘Engrained’ is also a word, but with a much more specialized meaning, ‘dyed in grain, or of a fast color; incorporated with the grain or texture of anything; infused deeply; colored in imitation of the grain of wood'(ibid).

    Please don’t feel bad.  Many people make this same mistake.  I’m pointing it out because ignorance can always be overcome by knowledge.

    Hey, I figure, if I’m gonna be labeled ‘elitist’ anyway…

    -Wang-Lo.

  41. Phil Wilson says:

    It seems that the US (or perhaps Webster) view of the world is that the "correct" use of a word is how people actually use it. This means that nouns can be used legitimately as verbs if everyone starts doing it, despite the obfuscation this can cause. If enough people use it, then you’ll see it in Webster. In other words, "any noun can be verbed".  The British view of the language (the OED if you like) tends to emphasise that there are rules (and correct spellings) and if we hope to understand one another properly, then let’s use the "right" meanings and spellings.

    I think Raymond’s point is fundamentally correct (despite the obscure seconday meaning of merchandise) because the verbing of nouns is rife. I suspect that the author of the cafeteria slogan didn’t think much about it.  Something like "We cuisine with pride" was just as likely, as someone noted.  I theory that the author just verbed the noun merchandise because it sloganed well.

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