Sunday, February 8, 2009


There are many cases where buzzwords play even more haphazardly with grammar than with meaning. Nouns and adjectives are often twisted into verbs (e.g. “to architect” and “to green”).

One such case that has been receiving plenty of media attention in Canada lately is “pansification,” a noun based on a verb improperly based on another noun. It had become popular with commentators on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada, a weekly broadcast of National Hockey League (NHL) games.

As The Globe And Mail reported on January 31, 2009, “the network came under fire from the Ottawa-based gay advocacy group Egale Canada. It protested the term, which was used by Hockey Night personalities to describe how the NHL game would be softened by changes designed to prohibit fighting.”

In other words, the derogatory slang definition of “pansy” had led to “pansify” and, finally, “pansification.” Its use on CBC was understandably perceived by some viewers as a slur against homosexuals, just as “pansy” had in general slang in previous decades.

Reportedly invented by Mike Nilbury, one of Hockey Night’s commentators, “pansification” could easily have been substituted with “softening,” as suggested by the Globe’s explanation, which would have prevented offence both socially and grammatically. If CBC’s self-imposed ban is effective, though, the term could be mercifully short-lived, the rare instance of a dressed-up buzzword being quickly and efficiently dressed down.


  1. Great. Another sports term spills over into daily speech. If I hear "quarterback" as a very one more time, I may scream.

  2. Of course, I meant "verb" not "very."