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”.

On Culture Vulture, the Guardian’s cultural news blog, Sarah Crown reports on the difficulties of turning Philip Pullman’s excellent and complex His Dark Materials trilogy into a film. The putative director, Chris Weitz, has just resigned from the job.

A little further on, there’s a paragraph on something I’d heard about before:

Weitz, who plans to continue working on the film as a scriptwriter, has already ruffled feathers by choosing to remove all references to religion from the film – presumably to boost its Stateside marketability - despite the fact that these form the very backbone of the books.

The expression Stateside marketability was new to me. Now, marketability might be a bit unwieldy, but isn’t new. In any event, English is very flexible about turning a noun, market, into a verb, and then applying the admissible suffixes, in this case -able, to create an adjective expressing the quality of being able to be marketed, which finally leads to the assorted noun.

But Stateside, referring of course to the United States of America — note the uppercase first letter — is a different matter entirely. And shouldn’t that be Statesside anyway?

[Addendum: Google finds one hit for Stateside marketability, and 499 for Stateside market. There’s even one with a visual that illustrates the term. None substituting Statesside; the deletion of the second s appears to be the preferred form.]

Another lexical creation in French, which Jean Véronis could have caught had he fished for neologisms in the RSS feeds of Libération: blog-bouler, adj. (and past participle) blog-boulé/e.

A junior high school girl has nearly been blog-boulée, i.e. “blog-balled”: expelled from her school for having slandered her maths teacher on her (less than one month old) blog. Unlike twelve of her fellow-students (according to Libé), she was let off with a suspended sanction, but her teacher has filed a complaint with the police (and her father is reported to have claimed to give her a thorough thrashing).

Not to go to deeply into the matter itself, I’m glad she got off (esp. since the reported insult is rather mild, in my book), and hope that the schools and teachers will get a handle on educating the kids about speech on the internet soon.

Blog-bouler is of course a blend of blog and blackbouler. The latter is a borrowing — half calque — from English blackball. Not a recent one by any means — TLFi has a citation of 1834 with the spelling blackbull (no relations to bulls, I’d think), and of 1837 with in the contemporary form.

(Explanation of the post title: avoir les boules, i.e. “have the balls”, is an idiom that means “be extremely angry”. Usually, a declaration that one a les boules is accompanied by a gesture, a movement of the open palm towards the front of one’s neck. Where the putative balls are supposedly situated.)

  • 2005-07-03
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  At Technologies du Langage, Jean Véronis provides a stunning visual of words he picked out of RSS feed of Le Monde, but which are absent from what is certainly the best French online dictionary, TLFi. The Trésor de la langue française, he reminds us, took 30 years to compile until it was completed in 1994. […]

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