You see, right in the middle of a perfectly good article, she inserted something like this:
“It’s a great place to visit,” Jones enthused.
She does this a lot. So my gag reflex was toned enough to be under control. But then, a few paragraphs later, she wrote something like:
“The clams casino are wonderful,” Wilson enthused.
That’s right, both Jones and Wilson are caught in the act of “enthusing” – in the same article even. So, with this added strain on my gag reflex, you’ll see it was a miracle that I didn’t blow chunks when, two paragraphs later, I came across something like:
“We love this beach,” Thompson enthused.
There are really three issues here:
1. whether “enthuse” can be used as a verb
2. whether it can be used as a verb in the way our writer friend used it
3. whether any jury in the country will prosecute me when the learn the circumstances contributing to my inevitable crime
The cut-to-the-chase answers:
The editorialized answers:
1. “Can” and “should” are two different things. Just because you can eat earthworms doesn’t mean you should. And since the verb “enthused” is even more nauseating than earthworms a l’orange, it seems a good idea to avoid it entirely.
2. See below.
3. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I’m no hero. I only did what any of you would have done in my shoes. But I do gratefully accept this plaque and your heartfelt applause.
The American Heritage Dictionary reluctantly* defines the verb enthuse as follows. As an intransitive verb, it means “to show or express enthusiasm.” An example from dictionary.com: “All the neighbors enthused over the new baby.” As a transitive verb, it means “to cause to become enthusiastic.” Think “His praise really enthused me,” or, in passive construction, “I was really enthused by his praise."
So it's the first definition that our writer is aiming for. But note that that definition -- “to express enthusiasm” -- is not for transitive use. You can enthuse, you can enthuse over something, but you cannot enthuse something.
Compare this to “say,” whose transitive form allows you to give the verb an object like “it” in: “Jones said it.” Jones can enthuse, but he can’t enthuse it.
I suppose that, if I weren’t quite so horrified, I would allow that quotation attributions don’t necessarily need to be transitive verbs. “‘Earthworms are overpriced,’ Jones fumed.” But that would be stretching it. The truth is that attributed quotations are usually presumed to be simple subject-verb-object constructions, even if inverted.
John said, “hi.”
“Hi,” John said.
The bottom line: The verb “enthuse” is icky. But don't take my word for it:
* The verb enthuse is not well accepted. Its use in the sentence ‘The majority leader enthused over his party's gains’ was rejected by 76 percent of the Usage Panel in the late 1960s, and its status remains unfavorable: the same sentence was rejected by 65 percent of the Usage Panel in 1997. This lack of enthusiasm for enthuse is often attributed to its status as a back-formation; such words often meet with disapproval on their first appearance and only gradually become accepted over time. – American Heritage Dictionary
Causes June Casagrande Supports
Planned Parenthood, ClimateCrisis.net, the Richard Dawkins Foundation, Pet Orphans of Southern California, KIVA