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.
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