'Incentivizes' - Macleans.ca



The best thing about any new interview with Michael Ignatieff: discovering new words you didn’t previously know existed.

Update. Oddly enough, the magazine has just now received a letter from Grace in Ottawa (Hi Grace!) objecting to this writer’s attempt to use the term “coronate,” which, she argues, is not actually a word. Merriam-Webster and the Columbia Guide to Standard American English would seem to be on my side, but I admit I could have just as easily used the term “crown.”

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  1. You’ve never heard that word before? I imagine it comes up a lot in policy, and economics.

  2. What a crazy, made-up word that Ignatieff obviously made up just now to sound smart. I mean, there are only 272,000 google hits for “incentivize”.

    Slightly more than the 271,000 hits for “prorogue”, for comparison’s sake.

    • “misunderestimated” has 246,000 hits

  3. Yup, this is important to go on about.


  4. I’ve heard of it. I just refuse to recognise it. I still don’t use “impact” as a verb.

    The language policing and the endless coining of politically-correct neologisms of the 90’s really traumatised me.

    • Yeah, what ‘s wrong with “to incent”. A perfectly good verb, and fewer letters to boot.

      My own nomination for worst neologism though, is the use of the word “gift” as a verb. What was wrong with “give”?

      • How about “text”. Not only is the verb annoying but so is the action.

        • You darn kids get off my lawn!

          (I’m torn between prescriptive English and the natural growth of the language. I hate misuse of “it’s”, but simultaneously accept “texting”)

          • I’m torn too, but some neologisms are coined to obscure meaning or, at the very least, are brought into use more through intellectual sloth than anything else.

      • I’m parcial to “incite” myself.

        • That would be partial. Parcial is a new word I just made up.

  5. It’s a feature of the language that guaranteerizes its longevity.

    • The reason English is so popular as a second language, is that it’s easy to make yourself understood while speaking it badly.

      But if it’s your mother tongue, there’s no excuse for abusing it.

      • That’s what I was trying to pointerize.

        • I suggest we replace the word “neologism” with “kodyism”.

          • You might say he’s re-kodyfing the lexicon. Not to mention the grammar, the format and the general connection between word and sense.

  6. Verbification (creating a verb from a noun, adjective, or other word) can be a lot of fun, especially if you’re talking to MBAs. MBAs are so desensitized to the practice that they will nod their heads enthusiastically at the most outlandish verbal concoctions.

  7. Forget about ‘incentivize.’ He’s still never clearly said what he means by ‘coercive interrogation.’

  8. Where’s Jack Michell when you need him?

    • Thy lexica Count Iggy now defies,
      The better thy word-hoard t’ incentivize:
      As once they aired, his words now cloak intent:
      It’s funtasticious re-beweaselment.

      • Brilliant, Jack! Sir, I doff my cap to you.

        • Thanks!

    • In case you were looking for philology instead of doggerel, here’s (I think) why “incentivize” strikes us as so preposterous (even if we allow the American spelling of the -ize [aka -ise] suffix).

      Oddy enough, it’s from Latin incentivus, “striking up a tune,” from the defective past participle *incentus (<incinere < in + canere). So basically “incentive” means “such as provokes song.”

      Note that it’s an adjective. The first step in making “incentivize” preposterous is to take the adjective “incentive” and make it into a noun. By now we are actually two steps from a base meaning (albeit a Latin meaning), in that the -ivus (> ME “-ive”) is itself a suffix. Still, it’s not too much to “nominalise” (make a noun out of) an adjective.

      Then, however, contemporary cant adds “-ize” to “incentive” to get “incentivize.” This requires that the suffix “-ize” be tacked on to the suffix “-ive,” which is awkward. Most of all, though, it uses the suffix “-ize” in a sense which is simultaneously transitive and intransitive: a purely transitive meaning for “incentivize” would be “to turn [something] into an incentive”; a purely intransitive meaning would be “to create incentives”; but “incentivized,” as used, means “to create incentives on behalf of [something],” so that if you “incentivize high school graduation” you create incentives to foster high school graduation.

      So basically the word seems like pure cant because:

      a) it’s ultimately derived from a Latin verb nobody knows anymore;
      b) it’s more directly derived from a defective participle for that verb;
      c) it’s based on a nominalised adjective;
      d) it combines two suffixes (-ive) and (-ise);
      e) it combines transitive and intransitive senses.

      It’s not that it’s utterly meaningless, but the meaning is sifted through several filters (esp. the double suffix) to the point where it’s very opaque and thus sounds pompous. A word like that, having no independent reference, has no independent life and thus will not last. For which thank God.

      • Jm
        Well you’ll just have to buck up my friend, because there’s plenty more where that came from.
        M. Ignatieff.

      • Magnificentacious, Jack. But you know what? Everybody knew exactly what Iggy meant…

        • Ah, but will they know in 300 years? Not that they’ll care, to be sure . . .

  9. What’s wrong with ‘ incentivize? ‘ Anyone who has ever had any edumucation and earned his intelligemence obvouisly nkwos wath si gbein lakted bouta.

  10. Incentivizator were a heavy thrash band from the 80s

  11. The best thing about any new interview with Michael Ignatieff: discovering new words you didn’t previously know existed.

    Hmm, funny…nobody ever had that reaction to George Bush’s use of the English language. I think you may be misoverestimating him Aaron.

    • No offense, but you may have been avoiding the late night talk show circuit for the last eight years.

      • My point Brad is that Bush was ridiculed for it, and would be ridiculed for coining such a word. However when Ignatieff does it it’s looked at as being endearing. Well to Aaron anyways, which is hardly surprising I suppose.

        • Another thing that drives me nuts is the word “anyways”. There’s no such word, any more than “everyways”. It’s “anyway”!!

          Oh, and confusing “its” and “it’s”.

          Oh and…well, perhaps I have too much time on my hands….

          • really, he isn’t making up this word. C’mon now. Language is fluid and new words emerge all the time. Incentivize is relatively new, yes, but it is a word and it has been used for some time now. I can see how, in many cases, it would be a more suitable word when the motivation is through incentives… see? but it is also used in some cases as a soft synonym to motivates. Whatever the case, this isn’t a ‘gaff’ a la Bush by any means.

          • We all have our favourites …….

            At the end of the day there should be an end to at the end of the day.

            And, in the future there should be no going forward.

        • If W had been competent he might’ve been endearing too.Case in pt, Dion.

  12. btw, it may be prefered over ‘incites’ because riots are incited, and this phrasing has come to dominate our contemporary use of the worde incite.

    • If you are referring to incentivize, the correct word is incent, not incite. To incite does indeed carry the meaning of urging to action, as in rioting. To incent rather indicates providing a reward for action.

      • that may be more correct by some arguments, but incentivize is the word, and it’s been used for at least the last decade, which also provides another sort of legitimacy for the word.

  13. Incentivations for dislocated matriculations would not do much for Nation building.