The usage of the verb snob

Le verbe snober vient du nom anglais snob, emprunté par le français. Mais il ne se dit pas snob en anglais — je parle toujours du verbe —, mais snub. Peu surprenant que certains anglophones s’y perdent. Et même plus que ça : on trouve une foule de formations verbales faites à partir de snob, toutes absentes des dictionnaires.

When the sentence “He [Karl Marx] would probably snob his nose at it [blogging]” flickered by me on IRC some hours ago, I just thought that this was a nice blend of snob n., snub v. and the idiom turn up one’s nose at sth., possibly influenced by the semantically less pertinent snub-nosed. The pure eggcorn snub»snob was bound to be out there, so I set out to find cites and enter it into the Eggcorn Database.

Boy, I got more than I had bargained for. Not only is snob v. tr. a frequent eggcorn, it has also entered certain slangs and dialects, as in this example from the Wingham Chronicle, an Australian paper, talking about sheep shearers in the outback:

  • Good pen mates will share the sheep and work together as a team but as Rod explains […] if you draw a ‘Hungry’ pen mate and he ‘snobs you’ (goes to the back of the pen and picks all the best sheep) your count for the day could be severely affected, or you’d have to work your guts out to give him the same medicine to stop him from ‘snobbing the hell out of you’! (link)

Unsurprising, really — after all, snub so. is snober quelqu’un in French, derived from the borrowed snob.

But the example also contains snob the hell out of so., which, it turns out, opens a whole nother can of fish. In the sense behave like a snob, or close to it, transitive, intransitive or with a prepositional complement, I found snob so. off, snob so. away, snob it, snob so. into sth. and snob at sth.. And then there are the totally non-eggcornish derivatives of snob n.: out-snob so., de-snob, snob sth. up , and the adjectives snobbed up and snobbed out .

Wow. This is truly one of the more versatile English verbs I’ve come across lately. And it’s not even in the dictionaries I’ve checked.#[1]

If you want the whole story with examples, read the Eggcorn Database entry.

[1]: NSOED has snob v. i., marked “obsolete”, as a variant of snub in the sense “sob”.

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