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Everything old is new again:

Emily Yoffe writes in Slate of the experience of being fiftysomething and joining Facebook. She writes: "I provided a photograph and minimal information for my profile . . . and waited for the 'friending' to begin. (You can try to resist, but friend is now a verb.)"

I did once try to resist, but then, in the early 13th century, the Guide for Anchoresses said: "Make no purses, for to friend yourself therewith." Then, around 1387, Thomas Usk wrote, in the last sentences of his Testament of Love: "Charity is love, and love is charity. God grant us all therein to be friended." Then, around 1425, Wyntoun wrote in his Chronicles: "And after soon friended were the King David of Scotland and Stephen, king then of England." In 1562, John Heywood wrote, in his Proverbs and Epigrams: "Friend they any, that flatter many?" In the late 16th century, Rollock wrote in a sermon: "Thou shall never get regeneration before God be friended with thee: thou is his enemy, thou must be friended with him."

At first I was all "Who's ever heard of these clowns anyway?" But then, in 1599, Shakespeare wrote, in Henry V: "Disorder, that hath spoil'd us, friend us now!"

It just kept coming: In 1600, Philemon Holland wrote, in his translation of Livy: "They had undertaken the warre upon king Philip, because he had friended and aided the Carthaginians." In 1622, Michael Drayton wrote in the Poly-Olbion: "But friended with the flood the barons hold their strength." In 1676, William Row wrote: "Reports came that the King would friend Lauderdale." In 1721, Thomas Southerne wrote in The Spartan Dame: "There the street is narrow, and may friend our purpose well."

Finally, in the Victorian period (1867), I read Matthew Arnold's St. Brandan: "That germ of kindness, in the womb / Of mercy caught, did not expire; / Outlives my guilt, outlives my doom, / And friends me in the pit of fire."

Yes, Emily, you can try to resist, but "friend" is now a verb. I stopped trying a couple hundred years ago.

jim:
This usage of friend to mean "mark as a friend on a social networking website" might fairly be called a neologism, but it is hardly the first of its kind. To google, to AIM, to Slashdot, et cetera are all pre-existing verbs in the same grain.
3.9.2007 1:47am
Jay:
This post makes you sound like sort of a jerk, frankly.
3.9.2007 2:05am
Thought the same thing as Jay:
For some reason I thought the same thing as Jay when I read it, and I usually love your posts Mr. Volokh.
3.9.2007 2:11am
Tom F:
In fairness to Volokh the younger, Yoffe identifies herself as morose and unfriendly so she is clearly worthy of our heartless ridicule.
3.9.2007 2:40am
NicholasV (mail) (www):
Shouldn't it be "The Friendening"? (Kind of like The Quickening...)
3.9.2007 3:00am
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
I had you at "At first I was all."
3.9.2007 3:55am
bornyesterday (mail) (www):
In the vein of Ethylwulf, here's one of google's quotes of the day"

The word 'politics' is derived from the word 'poly', meaning 'many', and the word 'ticks', meaning 'blood sucking parasites'.
- Larry Hardiman
3.9.2007 6:49am
anonVCfan:
Online OED can be a gold mine and make you sound really smart.
3.9.2007 6:52am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Online OED can be a gold mine and make you sound really smart.

Try pulling out an old (repeat, old) edition of Black's Law Dictionary and looking up "pimp tenure." Now, land tenure based upon keeping a staff of agents prepared to ... ensure the king's tranquility as he travelled ... that's obscure!
3.9.2007 7:51am
lucia (mail) (www):
Pretty funny! I subscribe to a hobby lists where people periodically start complaining that "gift" has been verbized.

Strangely, many complaining about "to gift", accept "to verb". Of course, without "to verb" how does one compose pithy sentences to mock English speakers tendency to verbize nouns? Oh well... go figure!
3.9.2007 8:24am
M (mail):
Isn't it more or less a rule of English than any noun can be made into a verb? Many of them will be ugly, but there's no rule that words must have a minimum level of cuteness.
3.9.2007 9:17am
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
I think that if "bunny" is ever made into a verb, it will be cute per se.
3.9.2007 9:38am
NickM (mail) (www):
You look good for your age. I wouldn't have guessed you were a day over 150. :-D

Nick
3.9.2007 9:59am
cvt:
What is the difference, if any, between friend (as a verb) and befriend? Reading through the examples, I can't tell if there is one.
3.9.2007 12:18pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
All the examples I gave are from the OED. I jumbled them all together chronologically, but the OED puts them into several senses:

(1) To gain friends for (Anchoress text);

(2) to make (persons) friends or friendly, to join in a friendship (Usk, Wyntoun, Rollock);

(3) to act as a friend to, befriend (Haywood, Holland, Row, and all the other quotes in the figurative sense).

So, yes, "befriend" is a main meaning of the verb "friend."
3.9.2007 12:29pm
cvt:
This is just a guess, but it seems to me that "befriend" is primarily a transitive verb, but "friend" in the way Emily Yoffe uses it may be an intransitive verb (i.e., "let the friending begin"). I haven't heard "friend" used enough as a verb to tell.
3.9.2007 1:41pm
Steve P. (mail):
It appears there is no more reason to subscribe to the Language Log, since Sasha's posting regularly now.
3.9.2007 1:44pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
cvt: As used on Facebook and the like, I think it's mostly transitive, as in "My classmate friended me the other day" or "I just got friended by someone."

Steve P.: No!!! You must keep reading the Language Log! For example, consider this great recent post, or this similar post from further back.
3.9.2007 2:04pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Sasha,
The correct verb form for "bunny" is "to bunny up".

Example use: "Back in 1979, I bunnied up for halloween. I got lots of compliment on my ears and tail. Plus plenty fo free drinks."
3.9.2007 3:34pm
Syd (mail):
I placed pictures of sad-eyed puppies on his mantle, pandaed his bed, kittened his wallpaper, then, for good measure, bunnied his back yard, so that no matter where he looked, he could not escape terminal cuteness.
3.9.2007 6:12pm