Chrysanthemum by Piet Mondrian (c. 1909). Drawing held in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Public domain.
The Christian holidays All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day (on 1 and 2 November, respectively) are to me inevitably associated with the chrysanthemum, a flower that blooms in autumn.
By (or on) 1 or 2 November, most people in Belgium — where I grew up — will make sure to visit the graves of deceased family members and place chrysanthemums on the gravestones.
In my childhood, these chrysanthemums used to be large, pale, globe-shaped or spidery flowers. Nowadays, they’re round bushes with button-like flowers and strong colours.
The word ‘chrysanthemum’ comes to English, via Latin, from the Greek for ‘gold’ and ‘flower’.
Image © Nils Versemann/Shutterstock.com
Sometime last week, on the train home, I sat next to a woman who was talking on her mobile phone. She was quite loud, so I couldn’t help overhearing her say, ‘He comes to these meetings with all these problems and we then have to solution them’. I imagine people sitting opposite may have seen me wince. She used ‘solution’ as a verb at least twice more in the phone conversation, so it’s more than likely an acceptable term in her industry. I’m not quite sure why ‘offer solutions’ wouldn’t do instead — or ‘solve’, if that is what she is doing with ‘these problems’ …
The verb ‘solution’ is probably the second-ugliest verb I’ve heard recently, a close second to ‘weaponise’. Although I don’t like them, both verbs are perfectly acceptable language innovations in English. They are instances of verbing, the conversion of a word other than a verb (in these cases a noun) into a verb. Whereas the verb ‘solution’ simply copies the noun ‘solution’, in ‘weaponise’ the suffix ‑ise has been added to the noun ‘weapon’.
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) dates ‘weaponise’ back to 1938, although, these days, it seems to be used figuratively more often (compared with the quotations in the OED). According to the OED, the verb ‘solution’ has existed since 1891 but only as meaning ‘treat with, fasten or secure by, a solution’. It hasn’t been registered (yet) as meaning ‘solve’ or ‘offer a solution’.
Verbing has been around forever. So have nouning (making a noun out of a word that is not a noun, for example ‘ask’ in ‘a big ask’) and adjectiving aka adjing (making an adjective out of a word that is not an adjective, for example ‘fun’ in ‘a fun activity’). Resistance to it has been around forever as well.
Some of these new verbs are useful and stick around; others just disappear — I hope the verb ‘solution’ as I overheard it will go that way …