Disrespect and Dr. Fell
I’ve always enjoyed this cheeky translation of Martial’s 32nd epigram:
I do not like thee, Dr. Fell,
The reason why, I cannot tell;
But this I know, and know full well:
I do not like thee, Dr. Fell
It reminds me of the continuing outcry against the acceptance of disrespect as a verb in standard English.
Like many speakers, I reacted to the use of disrespect as a verb with surprise and disapproval the first time I heard it. It still pushes my “sounds wrong” button when I hear it used in a formal context. Apparently this reader feels the same:
Seriously peeved with the use of “disrespect” as a verb as in “He disrespected me”. What is that? Please make them stop.
I had to smile at the “Please make them stop.” When it comes to usage,
…who can hold a fire in his hand
By thinking on the frosty Caucasus? –Richard II
A word that fills a need for millions of speakers will find its way into standard speech, despite such objections as these:
I’m fine with it [disrespect] being used in, for instance, “meaning no disrespect….” , but it drives me wild when I hear “don’t disrespect me” or “she disrespected my space”.
It makes me want to scream!
As far as I’m concerned, the word disrespect should be treated as street slang and nothing else.
“Disrespect” should be banned as a verb. It’s a cultural thing, one to which I do not subscribe.
Occasionally, someone counters objections to disrespect by citing the OED:
Look in the Oxford English Dictionary. Disrespect has been used as a transitive verb since the early 1600s.
This defense that disrespect is in the OED as a verb cuts no ice with true objectors:
“Disrespect” as a verb or adjective, however old and prehistoric the word may be, make me cringe. I hate the word, and anyone using it in conversation with me is sure to receive no respect from me.
“Disrespect” is indeed correct when used as a verb. But I still think it sounds wrong that way so I refuse to use it. Instead of “You disrespect me,” I would choose to say, “You show me disrespect.”
The Google Ngram Viewer shows that the expression “disrespect me” was in moderate use earlier, but that it really took off in the 1980s, about the same time American hip hop music hit the mainstream and it became necessary to explain the word diss (as in “Diss me and don’t diss my daddy”).
Like it or not, the use of disrespect as a verb is grammatically unobjectionable. If one may “respect one’s elders,” one may also “disrespect one’s elders.” If people are respected, they may be disrespected. The only justification I can see for the intense dislike felt for this usage by so many commenters is that–like the speaker in the Dr. Fell rhyme–they do not like it. For them I have written a manifesto:
I do not like thee, Disrespect,
Perhaps it is your sound effect,
That causes me to so object
And makes you sound so incorrect.
But this I more than just suspect:
I do not like thee, Disrespect.
Related post: That Annoying New Verb “disrespect”
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