Showing posts with label nominali{s/z}ation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nominali{s/z}ation. Show all posts

pay raise / pay rise

Ben Yagoda at some point asked if I'd tackled raise and rise. And I haven't. So here we go.

In AmE one asks one's boss for a (pay) raise. In BrE, one asks for a pay rise (or perhaps one seethes with quiet resentment instead).  These differing expressions are both nouns, of course. The verbs are basically the same. The boss would raise your pay. Your pay would rise. 

Why are they different? (a) Because they came about after AmE and BrE separated, in the 19th century, and (b) because there are two possible verbs to make the noun out of (both of which were already nouns in English anyhow). AmE went with making a noun with the form of the transitive verb (someone raises your pay) and BrE went with making a noun with the form of the intransitive verb (the pay rises). Both of these verbs had been nouns in English since the 16th century--it was only their application to pay that came up in the 19th century.

AmE, unlike BrE, also uses raise as a noun in other financial contexts, such as a raise in the minimum wage or a raise in the federal government's debt ceiling (both found in Mark Davies' Corpus of Contemporary American English [COCA]). This does not mean (as at least one BrE speaker has suggested to me) that the noun rise doesn't exist in AmE. In fact, AmE uses rise as a noun 10 times as much as it uses raise as one (according to COCA). But compare this to BrE, in which the noun rise is 53 times more common than the noun raise, at least in the British National Corpus.

AmE uses the noun rise in non-financial contexts (e.g. a rise in crime) and in financial ones--and BrE would use rise in all these contexts too. What's interesting is to consider is how Americans know when to say raise and when to say rise. So, let's look at some of the financial contexts from COCA:
a raise in (65 hits in COCA)a rise in (711 hits in COCA)
minimum wagehome prices
federal government debt ceilingyour credit card debt
and your water bill
pay, salarydollars per capita income
his allowancerents
Medicare paymentsstray costs

The noun phrases in the table are the first six different things (in the COCA results) that one could have a raise or rise in. I've put pay and salary in the same box just because it was too boring to count them separately, but it was hard work getting up to six different noun phrases for a raise in because most of them were about pay, and were things like they haven't had a raise in 10 years.

The thing to notice about the table is that the raise things are all things that a single authority makes a change in. The government sets the minimum wage, the debt ceiling and Medicare payments (which in context seemed to mean co-payments), and a company, boss, or parent (or someone like that) sets pay, salaries and allowances. So we have the sense of an agent in this action: someone raises your pay, allowance, etc.

In the rise column, we have things that are subject to more influences, and therefore are not raised by any one authority, but seem to rise because of market forces pushing them up.  (The second example, credit card debt and water bill, is about the effects of dating a [orig. AmE] bad boy. I don't think we can see the bad boy as an authority that's raising the water bill.) There was a counterexample in the first page of a rise in results that I must note: a rise in the cap on taxed salary, which is surely decided by a single authority.  While the raising of pay is definitely raise in AmE (British pay rise sounds really weird to us), other kinds of authority-led upturns in cost or earnings are less uniformly raise. So, for instance, COCA has 9 cases of raise in the minimum wage and 2 of rise in the minimum wage (all from US news sources).

As noted above, raise as a noun is not absent from BrE. In both AmE and BrE, one could execute a little raise of the eyebrow. And if you're doing that now, feel free to leave a comment.

In other news:
I'm quoted in a royal-baby-watching story on on British-versus-American names for baby paraphernalia. It took me about a half an hour after receiving the reporter's request to figure out why a US news establishment wanted to talk about British baby-stuff terminology. As it was for their wedding, it seems like there's more media interest in Will & Kate's baby in the US than in their own country. Which only makes me gladder I live in the UK where I can be spared some of that! Still, it's always fun to talk with the press. If you want to read more about baby stuff, here's a link to my 'babies and children'-tagged posts.
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a [adjective] ask

It's been claimed that coincidences are the product of heightened attention to a particular thing or experience, and heightened attention is probably to blame for most word-coincidences. For instance, one day when I was (BrE) at university/(AmE) in college, I received a letter from my Irish (AmE) penpal/(BrE) pen friend, in which she related that she'd been on (AmE) vacation/(BrE) holiday in Majorca (and it was a severe disappointment). I had to look up Majorca, since I'd never heard of it before. Later in the day, I went to my avant garde film class and saw Luis Buñuel's L'Age d'Or, in which people run around shouting "The Majorcans are coming! The Majorcans are coming!" (Actually, it was the subtitles that were shouting something like that.) Now, had I really never heard the word Majorca before that day (and thus it was eerily strange to hear it from two unrelated sources), or had I just never noticed it before that day? I'll never know. But I was reminded of this experience when I received an e-mail from reader Tim yesterday.

Prior to receiving his e-mail, I'd been reading the Times Higher Education Supplement (as you do), in which there was an article about UK universities trying to emulate US universities in their fundraising successes. (A very popular discussion in UK higher ed these days--which, frustratingly, usually ignores the fact that the tax incentives for charitable giving are much better in the US than the UK.) The title of the article included the phrase the big ask, and later in the article it refers to "the soliciation--or ask (in US fundraising parlance)" (that "quotation" was from memory--but I think it captures what was said). So, there we have the THES seeming to claim that using ask in this way (as a noun) is an Americanism. The Lynneguist in me thinks: "Bloggable!"

THEN comes the e-mail from American Tim, in which he asks about "BrE" a tough ask, which he'd just read or heard. So, we've got a British newspaper claiming that nominal (=noun) ask is AmE, and an AmE speaker assuming that it's BrE.

THEN, I'm having my Thursday-nightly pizza with my BrE-speaking girlfriends. The Poet, speaking about some emotional trade-offs says, "That's an incredibly huge ask." I thank her for using the word I've been thinking about, and she says "It's certainly not something I heard when growing up. It has a definite foreignness about it" (again--more of a paraphrase than a quotation!).

So, what nationality is nominal ask? Drum roll, please! It's Australian! And not the first time that BrE and AmE speakers have mis-attributed an AusE phrase--although last time the BrE and AmE speakers (myself included!) were all to eager to claim an AusE expression as their own (see back here, but make sure to read the comments to get the whole story).

This is what the OED (in its 2005 draft entry for the 3rd edition) has to say about it:
colloq. (orig. Austral.) (chiefly Sport). With modifying word or phrase, as a big (also huge, etc.) ask: something which is a lot to ask of someone; something difficult to achieve or surmount. Cf. tall order s.v.
Now, the THES article could not have been the first time I'd seen/heard ask, but it was the first time I'd really noticed it. But three times from unrelated sources in a 26-hour period? I think we can claim it as a weird coincidence, can't we?
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AmE = American English
BrE = British English
OED = Oxford English Dictionary (online)