How come no one knows “quote” is a verb?

It occurred to me today that I may be the only person left on planet Earth who knows that “quote” is a transitive verb. Since I’m assuming you don’t know, “quotation” is the noun, “quote” the verb.  “I read a quotation from Plato,” for example, not a “quote from Plato.” I don’t understand why citation/cites didn’t go the same way, though I’ve heard “cites” used as a noun at least once—as in “Show me the cites,” instead of “Show me the citations.” Maybe it’s on the way.

I blame Reader’s Digest for popularizing the expression “quotable quotes” and the linguistic equivalent of lateral drift from business-speak and bureaucratese: “quote me a price,” (verb) became “give me a quote” (noun). After all, everyone likes to sound like a financial smarty-pants these days, especially when they’re in the midst of pilling up credit card debt (with the nounal “quote” at least we can all talk the talk).

Anyway, it’s time to make a change your life: start saying “quotation.” That way you won’t sound illiterate to…me for now, yes, but I promise we’ll soon have a good club of 8 or 10 strong going.

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2 thoughts on “How come no one knows “quote” is a verb?

    1. Oh yes, that’s another favorite. We grammar grouses wander the world like Diogenes with his lamp, looking for the one man who knows the grammatical truth. Now that Fowler’s dead, of course, the cause may be lost.

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