Is this a new word?


The ‘Today’ programme on BBC Radio 4 is a rich seam for unusual usages. Yesterday threw up two, of which one could be a new word (unless someone can find a previous example?)

The eminent economist Jim O’Neill, best known perhaps for inventing (or at least popularizing) the acronym BRIC for the rapidly developing economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China, was interviewed by Mishal Husain about his latest role, advising the British government on the subject of antibiotic drug resistance, and he twice talked about ‘incentifying’ innovation in the use of existing drugs. When Mishal came back at him, she used the regular ‘incentivizing’ in the same context. The OED has no entry for ‘incentify’. (Was he creating it by analogy with intensify?)

Later in the same programme, the New Zealand Justice, Lowell Goddard, whom Teresa May has chosen as her third candidate to lead the inquiry into historic child abuse and its alleged covering up by the late Home Secretary Leon Brittan, used the word scope several times as a transitive verb, in the phrase “to scope an inquiry”. This time, the OED does have an entry for scope as a transitive verb, but only tentatively – the entry reads

trans. ? To calculate the scope or range of. Obs. rare.

1807   J. Barlow Columbiad v. 194   Lincoln..Scoped the whole war and measured well the foes.”

I’m not sure that Justice Goddard intended the same meaning as Barlow, but ‘calculate’ doesn’t quite seem to fit.

PS, 8 February – Having finished “The Falls”, I’m now reading the next Rebus novel, “Resurrection Men”, and have found this, on page 73: “Hynds had his [warrant card] open, too, but his eyes were elsewhere, scoping the room.”


  1. I heard the Goddard interview and didn’t even notice the use of transitive scope as unusual. It is commonly used in engineering, in my experience. And has been for as long as I can remember.

  2. Jamie –
    Thanks for passing on this information. It doesn’t seem to have reached the OED: perhaps now it will!

  3. “Creating by analogy” iz a good way to put it. It’s likely he developed that by accident wen he wuz a kid.

    I encountered an interesting similar example back in the 90z.

    An engineer I worked with sed ‘obliverate’. Its a great word, so I asked him if he invented it and he didn’t know it wuznt a ‘real’ word. We went to the dictionary and he wuz surprized that it wuznt there – that its actually ‘obliterate’.

    Hiz accidental invention will bekum useful in the future wen sumwun invents a ray gun that duznt just make thingz disappear like in Star Trek, but completely erasez their entire existens!

  4. I suppose it depends on what you think writing needs more of. I’m perpetually disappointed by fiction that feels self-indulgent, so I wish more writers thought of their work as a craft and disciplined themselves accordingly. ‘Craft’ has a stronger notion of purpose beyond the whims of the creator – and it emphasises skill over inspiration to a greater extent. But I’m sure there are at least as many people who think that what writing in general needs is more imagination, and so wish more writers aspired to the creation of art.

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