Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: lavish, vb.

lavish, vb. As a transitive verb, “lavish” takes a direct object, but it is traditionally a thing, not a person. That is, you lavish gifts on a person, not a person with gifts. But writers have begun to engage in object-shuffling with this verb — e.g.: “Mayor Willie Brown welcomed Philippine President Joseph Estrada with open arms Tuesday, lavishing him with compliments [read ‘lavishing compliments on him’] and encouraging him to maintain ties with the Bay Area.” Pia Sarkar, “Philippine 1st Couple to Get Royal Welcome,” S.F. Examiner, 26 July 2000, at A4. Despite that desirable edit, this nontraditional usage does seem to give the language more versatility when the thing being lavished takes many words to express — e.g.: “She had lavished him with the adoration and protectiveness of a childless woman who has borrowed a precious gift, especially a gift from God.” Sharon Rab, “The Red Dress,” Dayton Daily News, 6 Aug. 2000, at C3. That sentence is particularly challenging to try to rewrite by using the traditional idiom. One solution would be to make it the idiomatic “lavished on him the adoration . . . .” Another would be to replace “lavished” with another verb, such as “showered”: “she had showered him with the adoration and protectiveness of a childless woman who . . . .” A third would be to allow this extension in the use of “lavish.” Linguistic conservatives will prefer the first two solutions; liberals will be perfectly happy with the third. For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “The primary aim, in clearness especially, as well as in other requisites of good style, is that of economizing the reader’s attention.” J. Scott Clark, A Practical Rhetoric 47 (1886). ====================

1 thought on “Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: lavish, vb.”

  1. Dear Matthew,

    According to Garner’s Modern American Usage, the entry on faux pas states that it is spelled as faux pas in both the singular and plural but that the plural is pronounced with a z-sound at the end and with the emphasis falling on faux.

    Hope this helps.


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