Syntactic Lacunae and Zooey Deschanel

While working on a review of the Fox sitcom Raising Hope I needed to describe the way Lucas Neff’s affably dopey lead character Jimmy is an instance of the type who always gets the Manic Pixie Dreamgirl. I found myself mentally composing the following phrase:

Jimmy seems perpetually on the verge of landing Zooey Deschanel as a girlfriend.

Fine, but the final gerund phrase is weak because land is too non-specific and the punchline Zooey Deschanel comes too early. What I really want is a transitive verb α V β which means that α changes state by getting β as a girlfriend. Because the following has the right bounce:

Jimmy seems perpetually on the verge of begirlfriending Zooey Deschanel.

To befriend is fine if a little old-fashioned, but begirlfriending is simply not an English word. I guess this makes sense: if sexual monogamy is the cultural norm, people will initiate many more friendships than romantic relationships, so only the former activity will merit its own verb. But might that be changing now that western civilization is threatened by a Facebook-driven hookup culture that is eroding its vital underpinning of sexual mores in a way that is completely unprecedented? Couldn’t we coin this verb just to give my Raising Hope review a little more oomph? Linguistic innovators, get to work!

(By the way, my spell checker has no issues with “Zooey Deschanel”. I can see Zooey, but Deschanel?)

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