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Ignorance is no excuse[edit]

As the main article states, it is indeed true that 'leverage' as a verb is still predominantly a buzzword among American English speakers. For this reason, it seems rather worrying that Wiktionary lists this usage as if it were a correct usage. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the suffix '-age' as forming a singular noun from the verb to which it is attached. The OED also lists the word 'leverage' only as a noun and not as a verb. To talk about 'leveraging business advantage', is therefore as illiterate as saying "you are wastaging my time".

It is unfortunately the case that the editors of both Merriam-Webster and the American Heritage Dictionary have also seen fit to list 'leverage' as a verb, presumably on the grounds that frequency of usage alone is an adequate criterion for the recognition of a specific usage as acceptable. However, frequency of usage is an inadequate criterion when the term in question clearly violates the basic rules of the language and where its usage arises from ignorance of syntax and semantics. Against this view, it might be argued that language is defined by popular application. In many respects this is true. However the application of this argument in the present case would misunderstand the process of language evolution. Language evolves principally by either the relatively slow process of shifts in meaning of extant terms or by the coining or importation of new terms for new concepts - not by the wholesale adoption of grammatical and semantic errors.

Let us be clear on the implications of this. To accept the use of 'leverage' as a verb means not simply that we are accepting a new term into the English language. It means that we are rejecting the previously undisputed common understanding of the suffix '-age'. If the editors of Merriam-Webster and The American Heritage Dictionary are content that this should be so, then let them not complain when speakers of the English language 'usage' other terms with equal incorrectness.

Johngosling 11:48, 15 September 2006 (UTC)

First of all, Wiktionary is not a prescriptive dictionary but a descriptive one. But that aside, your analysis is faulty. This is not about a reinterpretation of the suffix -age, but rather another example of the very common process by which a noun becomes used as a verb (whether or not a verb already exists for the same purpose). As for dictionaries, I should point out that the latest Shorter OED does include leverage as a verb, both transitively and intransitively, and identifies three different senses. Perhaps that will help persuade you that dictionaries are not there to militate against language change but to reflect it. Widsith 12:55, 15 September 2006 (UTC)

Thanks for the reply Widsith. In respect of another currently controversial usage, to 'Google', I would agree entirely. Clearly this is a case where a noun is beginning to be used as a verb and, in this case, I have no objection. However, I would be interested to know of other examples in English where <Verb>+<noun-making-suffix> has replaced the original verb. If you can provide one or two such examples, I would be glad to accept your point of view in respect of 'leverage'. Furthermore, although I agree with you that dictionaries exist to reflect language usage, I am sure you will also agree that dictionaries do actually adopt value judgements about what is generally accepted usage on the one hand and what, on the other hand, is categorised as 'slang'. In this respect, dictionaries do more than simply 'reflect language usage'.

Johngosling 16:08, 15 September 2006 (UTC)

I think I added the verb sense, in the first place. The fact that it is still extremely buzzwordy is precisely why I added it, and then added a nice, big usage note to the effect that it's a buzzword. Those that don't use it or haven't heard it need to know what it means if they do hear it that way, and those who do use it might get the hint if they see a big warning label on it. It's unfortunately quite a common affectation in the offices where I work, and often used alongside other such language for obfuscation. Its placement in a dictionary acknowledges and explains its use; the usage note acknowledges and proclaims the attitudes of those such as yourself. I think that is the best we can do to resolve the prescriptivism/descriptivism debate: to do both by describing the language as it is and then making suggestions (admittedly not purely neutral) to keep the reader out of trouble. Dvortygirl 16:22, 15 September 2006 (UTC)
"outperformed"/"outperformanced"; "chaired"/"chairmanned"; "roomed"/"roommated"; "referred"/"referenced". Perhaps "packed"/"packaged"; "vacated"/"vacationed". If one allows the suffixing to have happened in an ancestral language, there are many more. One may object to some of these cases that the meaning shifts or that the original verb was itself derived from a noun. So too with "lever"/"leverage". In the US, we maintain a distinction between physical "levering" and more figurative "leveraging". DCDuring TALK 19:19, 6 March 2009 (UTC)
I should point out that most of the given examples are grossly unacceptable in Britain. - (Rushyo) 13:44, 22 February 2011 (UTC)
I think it's 'more' US than UK, yes. Mglovesfun (talk) 13:55, 22 February 2011 (UTC)

So, do you 'leverage marketing activities' or 'leverage off marketing activities' - or none of these above! —This comment was unsigned.

Both. See usage examples. The "leverage off" may be less acceptable, though I'm not sure. DCDuring TALK 15:11, 13 November 2009 (UTC)

If nobody disagrees that this is a buzzword, why was the tag and usage note removed? —This comment was unsigned.

The term buzzword is itself a buzzword and is not part of a reference work with a neutral point of view( NPOV). In my experience it is used by some to disparage the speech of others and, by implication, the speakers themselves.
I'd be happy to see what suggested synonym has the appropriate meaning without undesirable associations (as "use" and, especially, "exploit" have). Both "exploit" and "use" fail to capture the idea of some kind of multiplying effect. DCDuring TALK 15:11, 13 November 2009 (UTC)

It is illuminating to note the types of people who insist on using "leverage" as a verb and their ability in thir jobs, as perceived both by those in similar positions but who may be more highly regarded and those who report to them. —This comment was unsigned.

And what types would they be? Financially successful? Aspiring to be financially successful? Competitive? DCDuring TALK 15:11, 13 November 2009 (UTC)


I think leverage is from another language (French?) rather than lever +‎ -age. AFAICT all the ones listed above are from French, Middle French or Old French, that is to say, not band + age (etc.) Mglovesfun (talk) 11:52, 1 September 2010 (UTC)
Wrong - as far as I know, "leverage" makes no sense in French. "Lever" is indeed from French, and is the infinitive form of a verb meaning "to raise".--Hellosparta 13:23, 27 June 2011 (UTC)
It's an unusual formation, but definitely used a lot. Therefore, we include it so that people can know what others mean. Other people's ignorance is no excuse to not try to understand them.--Simplificationalizer (talk) 21:04, 16 April 2017 (UTC)