I've been watching The Sopranos recently; a very useful vehicle for picking up American pronunciation and mob slang. In series one, episode seven, Tony Soprano and his wife Carmela are in the school principal's office. A.J their 13-year-old son has been suspended for stealing and drinking sacramental wine. The school's psychologist (and therefore someone who is educated) tells the parents

Anthony has misbehaved. He should be consequenced

At this utterance my boyfriend and I both gawped at each other in disbelief. He said that the phrase should have been "He should face the consequences" whereas I believe the phrase "He should be disciplined" would have fitted better.

There are 3,310 results for be consequenced on Google, which I think is pretty astounding. Some examples:

  • Return to your homes, or you will be consequenced. I, Robot

  • He was consequenced, or appeared to be consequenced, in his romantic notions and the way he lived. Nicolas: A Mother's Search for Her Son

  • Should they deviate, even in thinking and regardless of behaviour, from institutional compliance, they may be consequenced and further stigmatised by everyone from institutional staff to probation officers ...
    Humane Prisons

  • We did have to work on his defenses, what purpose they served, how he might be consequenced if he hurt others, and what more helpful responses than opposition and control might be. Nurturing Adoptions: Creating Resilience after Neglect and Trauma

For what it's worth my spell-checker (USA and UK) underlines consequenced in red. TFD lists a few idioms using consequence as a noun: 1) in consequence 2) of consequence 3) face the consequences 4) suffer the consequences

What type of error is this? And is this mistake often heard in speech? (I mean, it is an error, isn't it?)

  • As an addendum to the question, OED hasn't yet reached consequence in its revision progress, but OED1 had its intransitive verb sense as obsolete and didn't mention a transitive use. I certainly didn't realise Asimov had used it.
    – Andrew Leach
    Mar 29, 2015 at 9:05
  • 1
    OED has exactly one citation for "consequence" as a verb - from Milton, 1645 - and in that case the meaning is "infer." So Huckabee's verb is probably a brand new coinage. And if I had to guess, I'd say it's a word rooted in Rousseau, cultivated by Herbert Spencer, and hybridized by phalanxes of 20th-century child-rearing experts: That is, it's a verbification of the "conseqences" that began with the 18th-century theory of education by "natural consequences," such as letting a toddler burn his finger or a teenager flunk geometry./.
    – user66974
    Mar 29, 2015 at 9:10
  • ./. Will naughty children and criminals someday be conseqenced? wouldn't dare predict the future. But if the prospect worries you, consider: Would you rather they were disincentivized? boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2008/12/07/…
    – user66974
    Mar 29, 2015 at 9:10
  • Just because decidedly maverick use of language by an author does not legitimize such use as "normal" English. Idiomatic is an overused and abused excuse to legitimize strange sentence structures. Perhaps, I should write a book, or even a blog with strange sentence structures, and then everyone could quote mine as legitimate "idiomatic" use. People should stop abusing the term idiomatic. Mar 29, 2015 at 9:12
  • 2
    I am just trying to help. I think that the too many comments are actually helpful in describing its usage as a verb in the past and its present usage. My understanding it is that is a valid but obsolete construction. . Its current usage has certainly survived as idiomatic so I'd not say it is ungrammatical!!!
    – user66974
    Mar 29, 2015 at 10:09

5 Answers 5


Long story short

Consequenced has been in use for nigh on 200 years, albeit not exactly at the top of the pile of first words to use when you want to talk about being on the receiving end of consequences so it seems that to call it an error would be something of an injustice; without a governing language body determining what's right and what's wrong in English; unusual but becoming more common might be a better term. (Someone must have asked for a SWR to cover that).

Despite OED having a mention of consequence as a verb it's quite likely that the recent popularisation doesn't come from Milton's Tetrachordon given the gap between 1645 and 1830 where I could find no mention, it could well be that consequence has been 're-verbified' although it's quite possible it was in use but there are just no scanned documents for that period. But from 1830 onward, there's no doubt that consequenced is being used mainly to mean having consequences applied to a person or thing.

OED II. ˈconsequence, v.Obs.rare—1 [f. prec. n.]
intr. To draw inferences or conclusions.
1645 Milton Tetrach. (1851) 175 Such a methodical and School-like way of defining, and consequencing.

There is a more recent dictionary entry, which simply echoes OED, but is not marked obsolete or even rare.

Websters Unabridged Dictionary (1913)
(n.) Consequencing : Drawing inference. [R] Milton.

I'm not sure how OED/Webster got drawing inference/conclusions from Milton's work - I think he meant exactly what it says on the tin adding consequences to an action (marriage/divorce). There's a lengthy chunk about that at the bottom of the answer.

Long story

One of the first Google results I get is this analysis of that moment on the show.

The Sopranos on the Couch - Analyzing Televisions's Greatest Series (Maurice Yacowar - 2003) Google Books

During his meeting with Father Hagy and school psychologist Dr. Galati, we share Tony's skepticism about the new jargon ("Anthony has misbehaved. He should be consequenced"). Tony rejects the school psychologist's report because he considers AJ a 13-year-old boy not a case. The specialists turn every problem "into a disease." Tony is frustrated that modish "consequencing" does not include the time honored "whack upside the head" or the traditional tarantelle on the bottom. His own father's favorite "child development tool" was the belt.

The word 'modish' is a bit of a giveaway despite modish also having an archaistic taint as the OED suggests

1.1 According to the mode or prevailing fashion. (Very common in 17–18 c.; now somewhat arch.)

Just how modish is it?

The Brigham Young Google Books query tool is vastly superior to anything Google provide for querying their corpora and in the Google Books (American) corpora it lists occurrences per decade of consequenced as 1830-5 1890-1 1920-3 1960-1 1970-1 1980-15 1990-19 2000-20

Of the 5 from 1830 - two are bad scans and one is a duplicate giving us just 2

Artemas Baker - 1832 - Circular, to the Honorable the Representatives of the People of Ohio in the Congress of the United States ... Google Books
I shall remark further, that, as the reducing the grade, was so important a part of his instruction; the neglect of it likely to be attended with such extensive ill consequenced; and one about which, the Engineer department could not be ignorant; ...

John Randolph - 1834 - Letters of John Randolph, to a Young Relative: Embracing a Series of Years, from Early Youth, to Mature Manhood Google Books
My horsemanship was, indeed, put into requisition, on meeting a rattley hacky coach, with lights, driving at a furious rate. It was where "the Avenue" is crossed by a gutter, and impeded by ice. Nevertheless, I did what Cambey could not do with his wretched curb-bridle - and as Simon says "I consequenced her with a snapper."

From the 1840's (UK publication)

John Goodwin - 1840 - Redemption redeemed: wherein the most glorious Work of the Redemption of the World by Jesus Christ, is vindicated against the Encroachments of later Times Google Books
For the more secure a sinner may be that his sinful practice will not be so sadly consequenced, as the nature and property of it only considered, it might very possibly be, the greater tentation lieth upon him to adventure upon it.

From the 1890's

Eugene F. Starke, Wilson A. Smith, Wesley A. Dunn - 1892 - The Medical Current, Volume 8 Google Books
Impaired nutrition, caused by weakened digestion, consequenced of previous disease, rapid growth, or any derangement if allowed to continue, naturally will end in impoverished Therapeutic Value of Remedial Gymnastics

Of the three from the 1920's one is a reprint of Randolph, one is a bad scan but one is valid.

Massachusetts. Supreme Judicial Court - 1920 - Report of Cases Under the Workmen's Compensation Act Determined on Appeal by the Supreme Judicial Court Google Books
The elevator at the time of his death was at the top of a building, and in some unknown manner the doors of the elevator were opened so that it was possible for him to have received the fall which consequenced his death.

The single 1960 hit actually provides 20 different books - because Google Books itself doesn't restrict it's list to any specific corpora. What is noticable is that most of those books that have consequenced properly scanned (and enough of a snippet to be able to determine the meaning) are from Indian sources. The obviously US scan shows me a snippet that is cut off right through the word consequenced but from the search page the text reads:

Iowa. Division of Historical Museum and Archives, State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa. Historical Dept., Pub, Iowa. Historical, Memorial, and Art Dept - 1961 - Annals of Iowa Google Books
Such then confessedly is the very climax of deadly consequenced flowing from writing, printing, selling and reading works of fiction. Self-murder, and novel-reading as the cause! Who wrote the novel that did the deed of death by drowning?

The 1970 list gives another 20 or so books, many of them Indian, one Australian using ill-consequenced acts and number of legal type references to consequenced tax. But two are directly related to the Soprano use (even though one is Canadian - that's still North American)

Canadian Psychological Association - 1975 - Canadian Journal of Behavioural Sciences, Volume 7 Google Books (two mentions)
(1) This graph counts the number of times an individual target behaviour is consequenced with a 24-hour period. The data, consisting of all the fines and rewards given by staff for that target, are obtained from the boy's point card.
(2) A type "a" histogram seems to occur in one of two ways, either the youth actually has a low frequency of behaviour, or else some behaviours are not picked up by staff and consequenced.
(To me this is the first sign of consequenced being used both as punishment and reward, whereas I would normally associate consequences as being negative.)

John Muir - 1973 - The velvet monkey wrench Google Books
If your reactions test out so badly that the machine operator cannot, in conscience, give you any color of card at all, you'd better not drive. If you are Challenged, you could be Consequenced heavily by the People who would, for sure, see you in living color.
(I have no idea what the odd capitalization is about)

The 1980's are supposed to have fifteen US books, Google Books offers me 45; again many of them are from India, some from Australia, one from Pakistan, and another using the word/term ill-consequenced.

[Author Unknown] - 1983 - Journal of behavior therapy and experimental psychiatry, Volume 14 Google Books
Basically, antisocial behaviors, such as physical aggression, verbal abuse, and persistent disobeying, are consequenced with response costs and/or time-out. Prosocial behavior is reinforced through a modified DRO format.

Daniel D. Roman, Joseph F. Puett - 1983 - International business and technological innovation Google Books
The decision process to develop international markets has to factor in potential negative aspects consequenced by technological side effect, social pressures, ...

The 1990's should be nineteen US books, but again I'm presented with forty-five or so and again a good number of them are Indian and Australian in origin but it's clear that the general trend, of the US books, is turning towards behavioural issues and discipline.

Rob Kerr - 1995 - Stop and Think: Empowering Students to Manage Behavior Google Books
More and more "overreacting" students are counseled and consequenced in the homeroom. We see this as a good evolution. We now consider nullifying the SAT center altogether.

T. Steuart Watson, Frank M. Gresham - 1998 - Handbook of Child Behavior Therapy Google Books
First, given that the child is given work which is appropriately difficult and that this work is monitored and consequenced, is the child able to perform in the classroom? Second, is there a collateral decrease in disruptive behavior, or are there behaviors which will require some specific attention?

Foster Cline - 1994 - Conscienceless Acts, Societal Mayhem: Uncontrollable, Unreachable Youth and Today's Desensitized World Google Books
Osborn was taken to court for alleged child abuse after her adopted daughter, Sophia, attracted the sympathy of kindly passersby when she was being consequenced with techniques Sharon had learned in classes for parents with difficult children.

Note that a number of other books in this group print the word consequenced in 'quotes', perhaps to denote that it's use is not all that common (even though it actually was fairly common).

In the 2000's list there are over a hundred books listed and at least half of them are related to behavioural issues particularly relating to children's behaviour.

All in all, consequenced has been kicking about for a while, it's just not been very popular. From 1970 it's picked up considerable use in a way that seems to be a euphamism of sorts for punishment and discipline but also with the added 'edge' that consequences can also be rewards. It's not restricted to the US, a lot of Indian, Australian and more recently European published books feature consequenced.

Milton, OED & Webster

Some quoted parts from John Milton - 1645 - Tetrachordon Google Books

I'm not sure why OED and Webster define consequencing as drawing inferences [or conclusions].

In the full context of Milton's writing (he is discussing marriage & divorce) the rules of marriage (and consequences of breaking them) are not bound by "Religion, Law or Reason" but by "the meetness of help and solace, which is the formal cause and end of that definition that sustains them."
And he goes on to say "... yet Moses, as if foreseeing the miserable work that mans ignorance and pusillanimity would make in the matrimonious business and endeavouring his utmost to prevent it, condescends in this place to such a methodical and School-like way of defining, and consequencing, as in no place of the whole Law more."

Those 'School-like' definitions are presumably from Matthew 5 & 19, Deuteronomy 24 and/or Corinthians 7 (Both include 'rules' of marriage and consequences of breaking those rules). Consequencing, to me, means adding consequences to an action in this case, marriage and divorce.

One should note that the Tetrachordon was only one of four pamphlets Milton wrote arguing for reformation of the laws regarding divorce in England and at the time, Milton was trying to get divorced from his wife.


It's not an error, it's a play of words. There is nothing wrong with saying that a lover overflowers his lass, that a drunkard lamp-posts himself, or that a certain piece of secret information has been newspapered. Everybody can understand what is meant, and most people understand the humorous intent of such utterances. Some of them get picked up by other people and may become so widely used that they make it into dictionaries: a building may house a family, a number may be squared, someone may steamroller a road or someone else, or they may railroad someone. Once it has reached this stage, the humorous overtones are mostly lost.

In this context, consequencing is probably a humorous euphemism for killing or for beating up.

PS: It appears from Josh61's comment on the question that to consequence has actually made it into dictionaries already. Still, it's likely that the verb originally arose in the way I described and that in many cases it continues to be interpreted that way by people hearing it for the first time. Also, it's likely that it continues to be re-invented occasionally.

  • The school's psychologist is telling the parents their son needs to be beaten or killed. I don't think so....
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 29, 2015 at 14:02
  • @Mari-Lou A: Oops. Of course not. I only read as far as "Sopranos" and "mob slang" and filled in the remainder of the context from my half-knowledge that it's a TV series about a mafia family.
    – user86291
    Mar 29, 2015 at 15:01
  • 2
    Yoour answer is fine (assuming your examples did exist as nouns first) until the last sentence. You should rectify this. Or be consequenced. Mar 29, 2015 at 15:09
  • @Edwin Ashworth - I don't know. AJ sacrileged! That's pretty bad.
    – user98990
    Mar 29, 2015 at 15:52

You have already seen examples of a noun being verbified:

To make into a verb; to use as a verb; the act of making into a verb (TFD, MW)

I would say that the psychologist was probably unaware of the actual verb form and was merely verbifing a noun, but I'd be wrong. Googling scholarly articles in psychiatry/psychology, I have found it used. It's not an error.

  • ...behavior observation code to determine the percentage of time that House staff are consequencing the youths' behaviors appropriately.
  • ...more potent contingency, such as forced timeout, seems necessary for consequencing that behavior
  • ... self-regulatory techniques, such as self-monitoring, self-assessment, and self-consequencing, compared to...
  • That is, after 77 pages of aversive consequencing...
  • The behavior development specialist implements monitoring, incentive/consequencing programs, and behavioral contracts rule making and enforcing...
  • ...Self-consequencing = rewarding oneself for task completion...

It happens mostly in the '70s, but one of my sources was from 2003, another from 2005 and another from 2010. But I admit I had never heard the word or thought about it until today.

Like so much in language, it should be looked at in context. The writers of the Sopranos probably used it in a semi-confusing way to highlight the difference between the way Tony thinks and the way the modern psychologist sees it (Tony's world-view and a more modern world-view).

Tony is straddling two worlds - the golden days of the Mafia are over in the US (he is nostalgic about missing them) and he's semi-reluctantly being dragged into modern times (seeing a psychiatrist? Talking about feelings?) He's rich, but uneducated (another world he doesn't fit in to.) The show uses situations where political correctness and "modern" ideas are presented in contrast to the barbarity and the euphemisms of his actual profession. His wife Carmela reads books and tries to keep up on parenting advice, but when Tony hears these modern words he doesn't exactly know how to use them.

School Psychologist: (Anthony had gotten drunk on Communion wine) In many respects, Anthony is a normal, healthy 8th Grader. Sister Patricia, his Art teacher, thinks he shows strong skills in spacial orientation.

(This is a hilarious example of the show's contrasts right here. In Tony's childhood, nuns (and gangsters) didn't concern themselves with things like spatial skills. They were to be feared and respected in their own way, just as gangsters were. My brother - in Catholic school - was given the "consequence" (lol!) of sweeping the school yard with a toothbrush for one of his many offenses. I and another child who were whispering in class were made to kneel on rice in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary until the class was over. My classmate, Donnie Butowski, told one nun, a very strong, large nun, Sister Ann, - now this was very long ago, and quite unbelievable at the time - to "kiss his ass" under his breath. "What did you say?" she asked? He got bolder. "I said, 'kiss my ass' !" That was the wrong thing to say to Sister Ann. We had very large windows in our school. S. Ann opened a window, grabbed Donnie Butowski by the shoulder, and - literally - suspended him by his ankles out the second floor window, asking him again what he said. Donnie knew better this time. So did the rest of the class. The "consequences" (lol) were semi-draconian punishments. This is the world Tony S. knows and understands.)

SP: But, this is the thing though, and it's not just this one incident, Anthony sometimes has trouble following the rules. Weighing consequences. At times he doesn't think before he acts. And it's thought that there's a good possibility Anthony could be A.D.D.

Tony: A.D.D.?

SP: I'm sorry, attention deficit disorder.

Carmella: I knew it! I always knew there was something.

Tony: What is it?

SP: It's an aggregate of symptoms. Inattention, impulsivity, sometimes, although not always, hyperactivity. Of course to be sure we'll need to give him a thorough evaluation.

Tony: All he needs is a whack upside the head.

Carmella: If he's got an illness? It's an illness, right? You'd hit somebody who's sick? You'd hit somebody with polio? You hit Anthony?

Tony: Nobody gets hit in our house. Not exactly my idea. I don't know what the world's coming to if you can't do a little tarantell' on the kids once in a while, when they step out of line.

Carmella: What happens now?

SP: He'll be given a complete battery of testing, psychological, behavioral, medical.

Tony: Let me ask you a question. These other kids, you keeping an eye on them? Are you testing them? The ones that aren't named "Soprano"?

SP: There's no immediate plans for that. We attend every child at Verbum Dei according to his own special set of circumstances.

Tony: And so what do we as the parents do? Nothin'?

SP: No, I mean-- Anthony's misbehaved, he should be consequenced.

Tony is being dragged into the modern world without adequately being prepared to understand it.

Other examples (political correctness):

Mikey: Your nephew, what's he... retarded? He likes to play with trucks or something?
Tony: Retarded? What if Jerry Lewis heard you talkin' like that?
Mikey: No, that's muscular dystrophy, Tone.


food on my table (protection money)
Retail meat and provisions (numbers, extortion, loansharking)
"Feelings make things financially unfeasible." (it's harder to kill your competition)
"She was very high strung, my mother." (she was a horrific woman who threatened to smother her own children, etc.)

Anyway, the show is terrific. And context matters.

  • SP - School Psychologist. :) It's red in the first quote. Mar 29, 2015 at 18:49
  • I see... Ops. Anyway, here's the episode movpod.in/h4us8clhmnna fast forward to 06.45
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 29, 2015 at 18:54
  • 1
    These days, Sister Ann would not only be sacked and never allowed to teach again, but also probably jailed—and rightly so! Mar 29, 2015 at 22:58
  • @JanusBahsJacquet - I think Donnie Butowski would wholeheartedly agree with that assessment even back then. Truth be told, she wasn't there the next year. ') So things were starting to change, I guess. Mar 29, 2015 at 23:02

What type of error is this?

This is one possible take:

bar·ba·rism noun \ˈbär-bə-ˌri-zəm\ plural -s 1 a : a word or expression which in form or use offends against contemporary standards of acceptability in a language especially in the derivative construction of words

Merriam Webster Unabridged Dictionary


Barbarism (linguistics)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Barbarism refers to a non-standard word, expression or pronunciation in a language,1 particularly one regarded as an error in morphology, while a solecism refers to an error in syntax.[2] The term is used mainly for the written language. With no accepted technical meaning in modern linguistics, the term is little used by descriptive scientists.

See "barbarism" also on this page: Garner's Modern American Usage By Bryan Garner


I guess the only place you can't find consequenced on the Interbaun is on a dictionary site. It's obviously yet another noun "verbalization" like "incentivized," and I take the meaning to be "receive the consequences for bad behaviour."

  • a noun? "The consequenced for misbehaviour is . . ." The noun form is consequence, we don't have the verb to consequence nor its adjectival form: *I am consequenced
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 29, 2015 at 9:36
  • Yes; sorry for the confusion. By "noun verbalization" I meant changing a noun into a verb of one kind or another. Mar 29, 2015 at 9:47

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