A friend alerted me to an interesting backformation – decept from deception, as in The voters have been decepted. He didn’t so much ‘alert’ me as scream, howl, protest and demand that I enforce a language police intervention on the ABC.I don’t think that I have nearly enough influence with the ABC, despite all my years of talking about language with various presenters, to be able to stop the progress of decepted along its airwaves. And to be fair, it was an interviewee who produced decept and the ABC was just faithfully reporting, grammar warts and all.

 Some backformations are useful and have become perfectly acceptable. To televise is a no longer noticed as a backformation from television. There is a bit more discussion about commentate but there is a useful distinction to be made between comment and commentate which everyone seems to have taken on board.

 As with all changes in language, it is the newest change that attracts attention. It seems that decept is part of the cool slang of the San Francisco Bay area. Berkeley University students no doubt use it ironically as a marker of their difference and their right to be ungrammatical if they so wish. Jokes are often misunderstood and taken at face value by others, and so decept has fetched up on ABC radio. It seems to be a one-off in Australia. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Sue ButlerComment