Anthimeria

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Anthimeria (or antimeria) – pronounced with the stress on the third syllable, 'an-th (or t)-im-MERE-i-a', IPA: / æn θɪ (or tɪ) 'mɛ rɪ ə/ – is the use of a word which is one part of speech (e.g., a noun) as if it were another part of speech (e.g., a verb).

For example, the person who says ‘There are no taxis, we’ll have to hoof it to the station’ (meaning ‘… we’ll have to walk to the station’) uses the word ‘hoof’, which is a noun, as if it were a verb. (The expression ‘to hoof it’ is slang – as are many examples of anthimeria.) The sentence ‘But me no buts’ (meaning ‘Do not raise objections’), first found in the play The Busie Body (1709) by Susanna Centlivre (1669?-1723), contains two examples of anthimeria - the word ‘but’, which is a conjunction (or sometimes a preposition or adverb), is used first as if it were a verb and then as if it were a noun. A contemporary example is the use of the word ‘text’ in such remarks as ‘You can text me when you have more information’: in this sentence the word ‘text’, until recently only a noun, is used as a verb meaning ‘to send a text message’.

Anthimeria may sometimes be unintentional – the speaker or writer may be unaware that they are using a word which is one part of speech as if it were a different part of speech – but it is often deliberate: it may be a rhetorical device intended to produce a particular effect, e.g., to create an atmosphere of informality or to give a humorous touch to a remark; or it may be the intentional use of a word in a new way to refer to an activity or object for which there is as yet no word in the language. In this last way, if in no other, anthimeria clearly plays a part in the development of vocabulary.

Etymological note: The word anthimeria was originally antimeria, the ‘h’ being inserted by mistake: it is formed from the Greek ἀντί (anti, ‘opposite, in place of’) and μέρος, (meros, ‘part’),