The Changing Faces of “Present” and “Presentation”

By Maeve Maddox

Present belongs to a group of English words that, with a shift in pronunciation, may be either noun or verb.
present [prĕz’ənt] n. (accent on the first syllable) – a gift
present [prĭ-zĕnt’] v. (accent on the second syllable) – to introduce,
to give an award

In an article about the 2009 Academy Awards, I noticed a third use of present that may be in the process of entering the language:

Best Present: Copresenters Steve Martin and Tina Fey, who’ve been funny together on TV and film, delivered a hilarious tribute to writers that made us want to see them make another movie together. —Erik Pedersen, E! Online

Here Pedersen is using present as a shortened form of presentation. In the way of the web, Pedersen’s words have been copied by numerous bloggers and it may only be a matter of time before we hear present
[prē’zĕnt] for presentation the way we hear invite [ĭn’-vīt] in place of invitation.

presentation [prĕz’ən-tā’shən] n. – the act of presenting

A presentation can be a gift, or it can be something like a lecture or a slide presentation.

Evidence that the cropped form present for presentation may have already caught on with some users appears in these headlines used to introduce slide shows on the web:

OM slide Present

SHN Membership Slide Present 2006

In looking for examples of this new, unlovely use of present, I came across a (to me) new use of presentation. When used on a wedding invitation, the expression “presentation preferred,” means “forget the gifts, we want cash.”

This comment from a wedding forum shows that not eveyone is comfortable with this use of presentation:

My soon-to-be mother in-law is really against “presentation”, but it’s our wedding, not hers ! I guess when we showed her the sample of the invite, she didn’t notice the “presentation” on it.

Ah, the accelerate of linguistic change!

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8 Responses to “The Changing Faces of “Present” and “Presentation””

  • George

    The use of ‘Best Present’ may also be a pun. Could Fey and Martin’s tribute be considered a gift to the writers?

  • Shirley

    No, no! Please don’t condone it! It’s sloppy and it’s wrong. Oh how I wish there was way to stop these horrible aberrations.
    Meet (meeting), invite (invitation) – and now present (presentation).
    Oh dear, just ghastly.

  • David

    An awful lot of changes are coming from the business and IT worlds. Three Letter Acronyms (or TLA as we like to say) abound. IN Microsoft we use TeleCon as in Dear Sir, Thank you for your Telecon of the 15th. Can mean Telephone Call or Tele Conference.

    Arrange any 3 letters in any order and someone will make up a technology to go with it.

    BTW – How many TLAs can you make out of the 26 letter alphabet???

  • Charlie

    Seems that the abbreviation madness that is standard in instant messaging is seeping into standard language. Seems along the lines of dropping words like ‘the’, ‘an’, and so on. Read about that somewhere and it made my eyes spin!
    How sad. (The abbreviating, not my eyes spinning.)

  • Grace S.

    Charlie (#3), I found it interesting that in speaking about dropping words, you dropped the subject from each of your sentences. I had a supervising teacher (in my student teaching days long ago) who occasionally made a point about this NOT being acceptable in writing (even personal letters, which we still wrote and sent via snail mail in those days), even though he’d allow it in conversation. He NEVER wrote, “Hope you’re doing well.” Of course, he had lovely penmanship, and the letter “I” was never a problem for him.

    There are times when, for clarity, even small words should not be dropped, especially from written communication when the reader does not have the added clues of pronunciation and inflection to discern meaning. In today’s post above, I was not sure (because I hadn’t heard PRESENT used to mean presentation) how to pronounce it until Maeve wrote out the pronunciation in context.

    Also, I wonder what Miss Manners would have to say about “Presentation Preferred” on wedding invitations! The concept sounds a bit unmannerly to me, as though the “invite” is being sent only so the “invitee” will bring a gift! I suppose I’m in a class with the mother-in-law mentioned above.

  • Charlie

    Grace S.
    Oh my goodness (she types as her face turns red). I just re-read what I had posted and you are right! I was unaware of doing that. I am on-line every day, and do a lot of e-mail. It looks like I am morphing into what I was talking about. Oops!

    Thank you for pointing that out.

  • Dave Rissik

    Of course there is a further context in which “present” is used as a noun (now) or adjective, (happening or existing now) and which is frequently used interchangeably with the noun (current) and adjective (currently).

  • Mariflor

    First time on this site, really necessary!
    I would like to propose another topic (or at least could someone please redirect my inquiry?): when did ‘better’ become a verb? As in “I would like to better myself” or “He is bettering himself by going back to school”. Thank you very much.

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