Addictive or Addicting?

So Twitter has been trying to entice me recently, with fake profiles following me which look semi-legit, until I follow them back and they send me messages about these online games. And doubtless the links just lead to horrible viruses (I’m still trying to figure out Twitter’s angle by the way. It usually takes me a few months to figure out each social medium, and how to use it properly. I’m not there with Twitter yet).

Anyway, what intrigued me most about these dodgy ads was their use of the word addicting. This is normally the point where I get quite reasonable and say something like, Well, you might think it’s correct to say addictive, and that addicting is wrong, but actually it’s ok to use both.

To be honest though, I hate addicting. Both my heart and my brain tell me that it’s wrong, and that addictive is right, and that’s it. Addicting looks stupid, it sounds stupid, and it doesn’t seem to make much sense, linguistically. That being said, people do say addicting, so I’m at least going to investigate why they might do that.

The obvious reason, to me, is that people are simply mishearing addictive as addicting. You can blame themfor not reading enough to know that it should be addictive. However, there is perhaps some linguistic logic behind the existence of addicting. First of all, a little primer on verbs and adjectives. Verbs can be transitive (followed by an object) or intransitie (not followed by an object). Transitive verbs can often be transformed into a pair of related adjectives. Like so:

The plot twist surprised me (transitive verb followed by object).

The plot twist was surprising (adjective).

I was surprised when I heard about the plot twist (adjective).

Simple enough. The adjectives usually come in pairs, with the -ed one describing a feeling, and the -ing one describing the thing that gives us that feeling. What happened with addicting then, I assume, is that people saw that addicted was an adjective, and decided that logically, addicting must be its partner adjective. You feel/are addicted to something, and that something is therefore addicting. I can see how that would seem logical: interested/interesting, bored/boring, addicted/addicting.

Only, that also assumes that to addict is a transitive verb. And have you ever heard someone use the word in that way? Have you ever heard someone say something like Sadly, heroin has really addicted him. Or, Man, this new online game is really addicting me: check it out! I think not. You haven’t, because to addict is not a verb. Now, you will find some online sources like Wiktionary that will tell you that it is a verb, but I think that’s a case of reverse engineering based on people thinking Well, addicted is an adjective, therefore to addict must be a verb.

But my own language knowledge and the Oxford English Dictionary both say it’s not. The one concession I might be willing to make is that addicted is basically the passive form of the verb to addict. But even then it’s unusual because it’s followed by to, and not the usual by of the passive voice. And most importantly, no ever uses to addict in the direct voice (e.g. The drugs addicted him), and if you can’t use a verb in the direct voice, is it really a verb at all?

I get why people assume addicting is a real word and use it, but to be honest, I’m against it. I just think it’s wrong. If people want to use it, fine, I won’t get upset. But they’re not going to addict me into following their ways.

By the way, if you prefer reading my posts after having to click on a tweet first, rather than just coming directly here, then click on Twitter over there on the right and follow me!

13 thoughts on “Addictive or Addicting?

  1. I too scratch my head with profiles on twitter – I now have a lifetime of free ebooks to read from all the junk profiles I followed (follow all strategy is bad).

    Your post mad me laugh because now I am imaging you correcting the grammar of the spam messages!

    All the best
    James

    Like

  2. The potential words behind your opening lines, the possibilities were so intriguing, perhaps even addicting! Hehe!!

    I don’t even know why most of them bother now. Fake accounts are usually easy to spot because they all follow a similar theme. Minimal effort and ‘enticing’ key words.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. *Addicting* is right up there with *impacting* and *impactful.” They all irritate me no end. You’ve made your point on the first. I’d like to see you talk about the other two.

    I mean, I know what an impacted tooth is; and I know that if someone’s digestive system isn’t working well they can become impacted. But we’ve gone from saying something had a great impact (effect, result, change in thinking) to saying it was “impacting” or Impactful.” I suppose there’s no clear grammatical rule about this word, but it still just sounds silly to me when someone says they were “greatly impacted.” Poor soul Shall I get you some Exlax?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Y
      To be “impactful” and “impacted” are the result of people thinking up new words to make themselves feel clever or important. There’s simply no use for them, as we already had so many words and phrases that filled their role. It’s like a lot of ridiculous business speak. By the way, I’ll always have a lovely mental image when I hear the “impacted” now!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Google Ngrams shows that addictive is way more common than addicting. In an ESL or as an editor, I wouldn’t hesitate to correct addicting to addictive, but it’s never come up.

    Liked by 1 person

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