You love? CNBC urges you to be cautious:’What to consider before you gift a Peloton or alternative big-ticket item this holiday.’
Yet the use is everywhere. ‘Holiday gifting made simple!’ Nordstrom ensured us. US News and World Report really manages to utilize the word as verb and noun in Precisely the Same headline:’The best way to Gift Stock and Other Financial Gifts.’
Grammarians have fought for years over whether’gift’ and’give’ are synonymous verbs.
It is time someone gave a definitive response. And is no. Except in a set of circumstances — I will describe them we could not present something . We can give. To those who’d give another response, let me give you the gift of describing why you are mistaken.
The usage of as a verb’ gift’ has ancient roots. Everyone who puzzles over this conundrum points out that the Oxford English Dictionary illustrates this usage as early as the 16th century. True enough. The OED lists examples aplenty. However, these early examples share. After we understand that aspect, we’ll understand why our current fad for’gifting’ is misguided.
The earliest citation is by a British poem,’A Merry Jest of a Shrewd and Curst Wife Lapped at Morel’s Skin,’ probably published around 1550 and considered to have provided the foundation ‘The Taming of the Shrew’:”The friendes which were together fulfilled He gyfted them richely with appropriate good speede’ –‘He’ in this case meaning’God.’ One of the OED’s many other examples we locate a 1639 reference ‘a parcel of ground that the Queen had gifted to Mary Levinston’ along with an 18th century reference from Henry Fielding to’the Inspiration by which we Writers are talented.’
But notice what they have in common. Before gifting it the Queen already possessed the parcel . In terms of Fielding, he is referring to a natural-born quality, gifted if at all by God – precisely the point being produced by the writer of’Morel’s Skin.’ Nearly all the OED’s early examples involve a giver who gifts what the giver already possesses, or a situation where the giver is Nature or God.
There is a major difference between going out to buy a item you do not and gifting. As it happens, the differentiation can be consistent with the traditional usage in legislation. Every case I’ve found that uses’gift’ as a verb describes a transfer of an asset the giver owns. Most involve inheritance. Similarly, books published in the 19th century overwhelmingly book the usage for presents either from God or by the giver’s existing assets.
This use is in keeping with one of the significant but vanishing uses of gift as a noun: a reference to a correct or honour which may be moved, as in the phrase’in my gift.’ The grant of titles is present in the gift of their monarch. The imposition of terms of surrender is present in the gift of the winning side. ‘Keep on enhancing,’ wrote a New York pastor in 1868 to some misbehaving parishioner,’and you will have the highest title within my present.’ This is the sense in which the word is used in a classic and much-quoted Pennsylvania case:’There is a virtual unanimity of opinion among all reasonable men that it is against public policy for a public official to classify himself to a different public office within his present.’
Historical use is not necessarily the best guide, but we would be wise to preserve the mature sense where’gift’ and’give’ are both verbs but carry two distinct meanings. So let’s reserve’gifting’ to your scenario in which we part. I can gift to Goodwill that sweater I wear, but the blouse I buy new at the mall as a Christmas present I am only able to give. I can give it to you if I buy you a gift card to your bookstore. But it’s not to my taste and if you gave me the card this past year, I can gift it. (Apparently that is no more considered impolite.)
And for those who believe no pillar is complete without a mention of Donald Trump, let’s use policy of the president to provide two closing examples of suitable praxis. This use was incorrect unless Netanyahu already possessed the wine before deciding to give it as a present. On the other hand, when Donald Trump Jr. told an interviewer last year his dad was a’re-gifter,’ he had been using the word correctly, since his example was Trump Sr.’s clear habit of passing on to his son monogrammed gifts he himself had received but didn’t want.
Re-gifting a top is not the same as moving name or land. Nonetheless, the distinction I’m advocating maintains both verbs but gives them separate meanings. To separate our use this way imbues the verb’to present’ with a specific power. Gifting becomes a forfeit that giving never quite is. When we gift, we part with something which has been with us for some time; when we give, our possession was always planned to be short.