Monday, January 12, 2009

Weird-sounding derivation? onboarding

Someone just told me about hearing about a new director being 'onboarded'. I was a little nervous that this might be connected to waterboarding or something, but it's got the obvious meaning: to bring on board. Turns out that this is common usage in business, and it has its own wikipedia entry. It's seems to be more commonly used as a noun, but 'to onboard' is definitely out there. I'm figuring it probably doesn't start from the verb to board, since you can't use that with on. *we can board on now. Instead it seems like it must have gone from to be [etc.] on board > to onboard > onboarding [noun].

It's that first step that is a little odd to me. Speaking as a non-morphologist, I just figure that on board is a prepositional phrase. But there's no determiner and the noun is not referential, if that matters.

I've don't have any smart analysis of this one, but someone suggests to me that the underlying construction mostly involves light verbs or auxiliaries or something: to be on board, to have [someone] on board, to take on board also to bring on board.

Need to ponder this one a little more, but insights would be most welcome.

4 comments:

Fritinancy said...

Mike Pope had a good blog post about "onboarding" in August 2007: http://is.gd/fDul

Joe said...

In San Fran, on the BART, they use 'offboarding' in their on-board announcements.

Fritinancy said...

Joe, Joe, Joe. We welcome you to the cool gray city of love, but we request that you refrain from calling it "San Fran." Only flight attendants and tourists call it that. It's San Fran-cis-co, s'il vous plait. Or "The City" (e.g., "I took BART into The City for the LSA conference").

Note, too, that BART does not take an article. It's just BART. Never, ever "the subway" or "the metro," either (not that you would).

Speaking of BART, here's what's going on in the Powell Street station (in The City) this month: http://is.gd/fSw5

Joe said...

Gee, it'll take a while to get my blogging privileges back, no doubt. (My better half lived in SF for many years, and looked truly alarmed when I just told her about this comment.)

But we just got off at Powell St. and saw the signs.

Guess it's time to go back to Wisconsin if Mr. V doesn't have us turned back at the border.