Q: I recently said somebody was “efforting” (that is, working hard) to accomplish something. The people who were with me looked at me as if I had three heads, insisting that this was not a word. Is “to effort” a legitimate verb, and if so, did I use it properly?
A: I can’t find the verb “effort” in the two dictionaries I consult the most, The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Both have “effort” only as a noun, with related adjectives and adverbs.
I did, however, discover a single published reference for “effort” as a verb in the Oxford English Dictionary, the 20-volume mother of all dictionaries. Thomas Fuller, a 17th-century scholar and clergyman, used the term in History of the Worthies of England: “He efforted his spirits with the remembrance…of what formerly he had been.”
That was then. What about now?
I got nearly 20,000 hits when I Googled “efforting,” but many were complaints about the usage. As Barbara Wallraff puts it in her Word Court column in The Atlantic, “There’s no point in inventing ‘efforting’ when so many familiar verbs are available to do its job.”
Buy Pat’s books at a local store or Amazon.com.