Microspeak: to family well

If you hang out with designers, you may hear the word family used as a verb, usually with the adverb well.

The old icons now look dated and do not family well with the Web site.

We renamed the feature from Auto Shape to Instant Shape so that it families well with other features like Instant Color.

The authenticity certificate on the side of the box should family well with the design on the front of the box.

From context, it appears that to family well basically means to be harmonious or consistent with.

Comments (29)
  1. Matthew Smith says:

    English can often verb its nouns, but the verb "to family" does not family well with my sense of English style.

  2. ipoverscsi says:

    I know that "Microspeaks" are not exclusive to Microsoft, but this one is the last straw!  If I heard someone say "they don't family well" I'd probably punch him in face and say "That's for ruining English!"

    Perhaps we can put in a company suggestion requiring that Microsoft employees be forced to hang out with regular non-programmer types for a while just to keep the damage done to the English language at a minimum.


     P: [TO WAITRESS] I'd like a Blue Moon.

     C: [TO WAITRESS] I'll have a Bellini.

     T: [TO WAITRESS] Gimme Hard Cider.

     P: Look, guys…we're supposed to be here to drink beer. The stuff you ordered doesn't family well.


     P: What?


     T: That's for ruining English!

    [If it's any consolation, the terminology is not used by programmers to any detectable extent. It's a designer thing. -Raymond]
  3. The funny thing is thinking that a family is in any way harmonious or consistent, I know mine isn't.

  4. shinyhat says:

    I cringed. I actually cringed.

    I cannot explain why I find this any more offensive than any other abuse of the language, but this one just rankles me.

  5. Piotr says:

    The reason we fnd this so disturbing is that this idiom doesn't add anything to the language, and is actually much more clunky than the word consistent, which can be easily negated.

    It also is a very active word for a completely passive concept.

  6. Robert Morris says:

    I don't know what you guys are talking about. This novel verb families well with other English zero-derivations. (And Pitor, what, linguistically speaking, do you mean with "active word" and "passive concept"? How is this different from "harmonize" or "fit in," which are undoubtedly fine with you? I suspect you mean the lack of semantic Agency on the synactic subject, but this is hardly unique to these verbs.)

  7. JM says:

    That's the problem with modern society: families don't family well with themselves anymore.

  8. DWalker says:

    Right, so the Office 2013 user interface is supposed to family well with the Metro UI that Windows 8 has.  Yet, since I hate, hate, hate, all-uppercase menus, I'll have to see how long I can stay with Office 2010.  Sigh.  

    I use Excel so much, and the Excel 2013 interface is so visually horrible, but there's nothing I can do about it.

    I don't family well with the Metro UI.

  9. Gabe says:

    As Raymond mentioned a couple times, this is a term used by designers. Designers regulary talk about font families, color families, etc. This is just an extension of that sort of usage.

  10. SimonRev says:

    @DWalker — There is plenty of reason to hate the Office UI (for me the main pain is a tossup between is that it is hard to tell which part of a scroll bar is the thumb tracker and which is the tray part and several parts of the UI which have adjacent white background elements with missing or very faint borders making it hard to tell where one element ends and the next begins).

    At least the menus can at least be rectified by manually renaming each menu (under Customize Ribbon)

  11. 12BitSlab says:

    I'll show my age here — again.

    In my world, nouns are nouns and verbs are verbs.  They are not interchangeable.  Using a noun as a verb or doing the opposite merely shows a lack of education or disipline.

    BTW, "trending" is not a word and it drives me crazy as well.

  12. skuggi says:


    So you don't use such new-fangled verbifications as, "to mail" or "to salt"?

  13. 12BitSlab says:

    @ skuggi

    There are some words that are relatively new to the language that started out as both nouns and verbs — at least as far a common usage goes.  The best example that I know is "email".  It is used as a nound and as a verb almost universally.  I try to use it as a noun, but I slip up from time to time and use it as a verb.

    Juat goes to show you, even us old farts make lots of mistakes!

  14. Mark S says:

    @SimonRev – luckily this awful UI trend families well with Visual Studio 2012.  

  15. APP says:

    @12BitSlab – It doesn't really show your age.

    "Through the ages, language mavens have  deplored  the  way  English  speakers convert  nouns  into verbs. (…) In fact, easy conversion of nouns to verbs has been part of English grammar for centuries; it is one of  the  processes  that  make English  English. I have estimated that about a fifth of all English verbs were originally nouns."


  16. @Skuggi and 12BitSlab…

    I'm not sure that mail and salt are used as nouns and verbs.  Rather they are used in grammatically incorrect fashion, which is never-the-less comprehensible.

    We don't "mail letters" (or "email messages").  We send letters/messages, and the method of transport by which they are delivered is mail/email.

    i.e. "I emailed you" or "I mailed you a letter" are simply shorthand, grammatically incorrect forms of "I sent you a message by email" and "I sent you a letter in the mail".

    Then again, words – their very existence, meaning and usage – are fluid.  Usage informs definition as much as, or perhaps even more than, definition prescribes usage.  So give it time, and all of us will be/will have been correct.  :)

  17. John says:

    My maternal grandmother has a well in her garden. It families well with the rest of the garden. We call it the family well.

  18. > it is one of the processes that make English English

    ITYM "it is one of the processes that Englishes English."

  19. Silly says:

    English English english English. –> English speaking people from England sometimes put a little spin on the English language. (Other speakers of English may do the same.)

  20. tooki says:

    People, movement to/from noun <-> verb is neither uncommon nor incorrect in English or any other language. It's a regular linguistic process. There's no reason to condemn it.

    That said, not *every* conversion makes sense or emerges elegant. "To family" certainly is a less successful example.

  21. AsmGuru62 says:

    1. "I emailed you"

    2. "I sent you a message by email"

    Our world is a fast-paced one.

    And that affects the speed of information transfer.

    #1 is probably incorrect, but shorter to say/type.

    #2 is probably correct English, but twice as long.

    I keep hearing #1 everywhere instead of #2.

    In fact, if you use #2 — you'll not get invited to any parties,

    because you're sound weird.

  22. Valdez says:

    I'm really tempted to drop these in in everyday conversations. I'll probably get a lot of funny looks though…


    I fully embrace new verbs such as email. Much more efficient. If everyone was meticulously correct, the language would hardly evolve!

  23. DWalker says:

    Verbing: I was helping a friend of mine cook something once, and he asked me to foil a pan.  "Will you foil that pan?"  The pan was going into the oven, with food on it, of course.

    I kept trying to think of creative ways to foil that dastardly pan.

  24. DWalker says:

    @SimonRev:  Thanks for that tip about renaming the menus.  Now if I could get the colors fixed, that would be great and I can embrace Excel 2013!

  25. Jim Buck says:

    @Silly: Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo ( en.wikipedia.org/…/Buffalo_buffalo_Buffalo_buffalo_buffalo_buffalo_Buffalo_buffalo )

  26. Gabe says:

    If 'mail' is a verb, why not 'email' (or at least 'e-mail')? After all, 'email' the noun is just short for 'electronic mail', so 'email' the verb can just be short for 'electronically mail'.

    That said, everybody knows verbing weirds language.

  27. As a non-native speaker of English, I find this discussion very interesting. So I'll rank xerox it just to make sure, the minute I am done hoovering the living-room.

    Rüdiger, living in a country where talk like this would be more than just a little odd

  28. Larry Hosken says:

    "Relate" was perhaps too reminiscent of the 1970s

  29. voo says:

    Ah all those people who'd prefer if we still spoke Anglo-Frisian ;-) To be fair these kind of movements exist in lots of languages (German, Spanish,..) too. Languages are fluid and change over time, resisting that change is futile, or at least complaining about it to the young kids is.

    @Jolyon Smith: As a matter of fact "to mail" is recognized as a verb by the oxford dictionary in the common usage, so I'm afraid you're already behind the times ;) (Although it'd be interesting to see when they added that one, too bad).

    @rwilke I can think of enough German words that function as both nouns/verbs (although thanks to conjugating them it may seem less weird?). But then it's German, there are not many things that language hasn't dabbled in to make it more complex ;)

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