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What is the word for what we are doing to the thread when we "thread a bead"? Are we "beading" the thread? The closest word that I could find was "extrude" but I think that this is more of a manufacturing term than an arts & crafts term.

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Sure, you can both bead a thread and vice versa, as the first sense of the verb bead given by the OED is:

  1. trans. To furnish, adorn, or work with beads.

And it gives citations sush as these:

  • 1822 Beddoes Bride’s Trag. ɪɪɪ. iv, ― Drops enough to bead a thousand such [necklaces.]
  • 1856 Miss Yonge Daisy Ch. ɪ. xxii. (1879) 228 ― Morning dew, which beaded the webs of the spiders.
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Thank you!‏‏‏‏‏‏ – dotancohen Oct 31 '12 at 10:31

This is the Provisional sense of verbing a noun.

If the noun "X" is a member of a large class of physical things, the Zero-derived Provisional transitive verb to X means 'to provide with X'. Exemplorum gratia:

  • to seed a lawn
  • to water a horse
  • to oil machinery
  • to roof a house

(There is also an opposite Privative sense, which means 'to deprive of or remove X', ee.g.

  • to seed a pepper
  • to milk a cow
  • to peel an orange
  • to skin a cat )

Since in the Provisional sense the direct object is provided with the verb's noun, then whether one uses thread the beads or bead the thread depends on whether it is the beads or the thread that is viewed as the main "possessor" noun. Similar remarks apply to the verb string, which is probably more common in construction with bead.

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Thank you John. That was very informative, but I do wonder (seriously) if we are lawning the seeds, machining the oil, or cowing the milk. Certainly not all instances of verbing a noun are commutative. What have we done to the milk? Milked it? – dotancohen Oct 31 '12 at 14:45
It's far from totally productive, and as you can see it doesn't depend on the verbed noun. If seed a pepper means take out seeds, but seed a lawn means put in seeds, I wouldn't worry much about abstract complexities until the basic stuff is ironed out. – John Lawler Oct 31 '12 at 15:14
I see. I just worry that "bead a thread", specifically, might not sound correct. But I'll live with it. Thanks! – dotancohen Oct 31 '12 at 15:27
The specifics are going to be variable and unpredictable. For instance, beading a thread might be interpreted as putting the beads inside the thread somehow. When you have two ways to say something and one is a common phrase, using the other usually indicates that the speaker means something different. It's not a matter of "correct" as much as it is a matter of what you want to mean. – John Lawler Oct 31 '12 at 15:34
You can fish a burn, and burn a fish. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 31 '12 at 17:45

You are threading the string through the bead. Definition 2a (2) from Merriam-Webster.

to pass (as a tape, line, or film) into or through something (threaded a fresh roll of film into the camera).

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I don't know why you were downvoted, I'm upvoting. As per the dictionary definition that you quote, threaded is a valid word in this context. However, I do hold the opinion that it is possibly an incorrect usage of the word. Hammer a hammer? No, you hammer a nail. Likewise: Thread a thread? No, you thread the bead. I hate when colloquial misusage is quoted in dictionaries, something that M-W does often. I had a thread on that, but it seems to have been deleted. I do seem to remember that thread having been downvoted into oblivion, though! – dotancohen Oct 31 '12 at 11:19

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