That Annoying New Verb “disrespect”
Reader Erica Richards, commenting on the post about the abomination “a few stuff,” was not so sanguine as I about teenagers outgrowing appalling usage:
The trend I’m seeing is that poor grammar habits are not only perpetuated into adulthood, but can be treated as an accepted form of speech used on TV or the radio. I suspect that eventually it is accepted as proper grammar . . . The most notable example is the current vernacular use of “disrespect” as a verb, as in “he disrespected me”. Sounds like nails on a blackboard to me, however, it’s all over the media.
Well, I feel the same way about disrespect used as a verb. It flies all over me when I hear it and I was about to write a post about how ridiculous, unidiomatic and unnecessary the usage is.
Before I did, however, I looked it up in the OED. I didn’t expect to find it or, if it was there, I expected it to be labeled an Americanism.
This is what I found.
disrespect: v. trans. The reverse of to respect; to have or show no respect, regard, or reverence for; to treat with irreverence. Hence disre￼spected ppl. a., -ing vbl. n.
Not only is disrespect in the OED as a verb, its use as a verb goes back to the seventeenth century.
1614 WITHER Sat. to King, Juvenilia (1633) 346 Here can I smile to see..how the mean mans suit is dis-respected.
1633 BP. HALL Hard Texts N.T. 11 If he love the one he must disrespect the other.
1683 CAVE Ecclesiastici 231 (Basil) To honor him, and dis-respect his Friend, was to stroke a man’s head with one hand, and strike him with the other.
1706 HEARNE Collect. 26 Apr., He was disrespected in Oxford by several men who now speak well of him.
1852 L. HUNT Poems Pref. 27 As if..sorrow disrespected things homely.
1885 G. MEREDITH Diana I. 257 You will judge whether he disrespects me.
Some of us may feel that “disrespect” as a verb is a despicable neologism, but it isn’t.
Erica, your observations about the way incorrect usage filters into the media are valid, but it looks as if we’ll have to bite the bullet on disrespect as a verb.
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