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I am a teacher in So. Cal. at a middle school. My students sometimes need to do presentations as part of their school work. Whenever I start a discussion about a project, they ask me, “Do we have to presentate?” I think they are asking if they have to present it. I have told them that this is not a word. But now I have heard this word used by so many students I am starting to wonder if it is becoming a word in their vernacular. Can anyone add any insight to this? Is “presentate” a word?


Mrs. McAllaster

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I have never heard it and it sounds very wrong to me, but I see a few uses on the internet and “Urban Dictionary” even defines it.   It makes me think of “orientate” which is quickly becoming more common.

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Teenymac said
I am starting to wonder if it is becoming a word in their vernacular. Can anyone add any insight to this? Is “presentate” a word?

You are asking a few different questions. I am assuming your students are average learners, aware of the verb “to present” yet drawn to use “to presentate.”

Is it becoming a word in their vernacular: I think it is a word to them. As you describe it, they use it with a clear, precise meaning, and their peers understand perfectly what they mean. It is for them an occupational word in their specialized student vocabulary.

Insight: the process by which this verb is derived is called back-formation. It is a very common phenomenon in English. It can happen whenever there is a derived noun. It is very useful when a verb has a derived noun or two (agent noun or process noun), and one noun takes on a particular nuance. When that nuance is not shared by the verb, speakers sense the gap, and create a new verb to fill that gap. Think of “to comment”, “commentator”, “to commentate.” (which dates all the way back to the mid-19th century). “To comment” simply no longer captured the nuance of “what a commentator does.” Once that gap was felt, “to commentate” was not far behind. Think of “to gyrate” (first used around 1820) as opposed to the much older “to gyre” (from Middle English) with the same meaning. “To gyrate” is in fact a back-formation from “gyration” which came from “to gyre.” Now, we would almost never see or use the original verb “to gyre.”

Is it a word: I take it you are asking if it is a word in standard English. It is not standard.

I guess that, in your students’ world, “to present” does not capture something important about what “a presentation” involves. Perhaps it is all of the preparation work involved. They might feel that “to present” is simply the act of standing and delivering. So maybe “to presentate” includes the prep work. (This is just a guess.) Why not ask them if “to present” and “to presentate” mean different things to them? How are they different? Ask them what they think of “the presenter” as the person who makes a presentation. Do they think it should be “the presentator”? Frankly, it’s not all that surprising that your students steer clear of “to present” since I think most professionals would choose the phrase “to give a presentation” or “to make a presentation” over the simple verb “to present” because of the nuance.

As their teacher, I would applaud their creativity with language, then help them to explore several ways to express those ideas with standard English.

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The verb ‘to present’ seems not quite up to conveying the meaning of ‘to do a presentation.’ If I am asked  ‘Do we present?’ my likely response would be ‘Whah? Ah yes a presentation,’ even given that extra hint from being in a classroom or office.
What if the question is  ‘Do we presentate?’ ? I am afraid my response would be the same, except a lot more perplexed.
In any case there seems to be justification for a new verb to fill in for ‘to present’ where it seems not quite up to the job. Though I share the instinct of a great many to be suspicious and disdainful of ‘invented’ words, reading Glenn’s I am convinced (even if this may not even be his point) this is a most natural word inventing process playing out via back-formation, though the likelihood is the  students only act out of pure instinct, without a thought about putting a name to what they’re doing.
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