This is a follow-up to this question: Why is "violated" being used as future perfect with a person as the object?

At that question, it was established that there is a jargon/slang usage of the word "violated" within the aviation community that means "found to be in violation of". As in "The pilot will be violated..." means "The pilot will be found in violation of a regulation" in that context.

Does this type of thing have a name?

Are you aware of any other verbs that have been inverted like this? For example, something like this completely made up example: "She was found to be in possession of drugs" meaning the same thing as, "She was possessed", even if only in a slang/non-standard/jargon context?


3 Answers 3


It’s an example of zero derivation. This means deriving a new word from another word while bypassing the usual derivation rule that involves adding a prefix or suffix such as ‑ify or ‑ize. To illustrate zero derivation, here is an example from the exploding penguin sketch:

(1) Oh, intercourse the penguin. [Emphasis added]

Monty Python derive ?intercourse (trans) from intercourse (subj), creating a funny euphemism for fuck (trans). This is a zero derivation because it takes place without a verb-creating suffix. (Zero-deriving a verb from a noun is also known as “verbing” the noun.)

Your example is a zero derivation of a new word, not just a figurative use of an existing word. This can be seen from the fact that the new word has different restrictions on how it can be used. The existing word,

(2) violate (trans), to treat with violence or dishonor

takes as its object the target of the violence or dishonor. It can be a person, but it can also be a law, regulation, or custom.

The new word,

(3) violate (trans), to sanction (a person, for a rule violation)

takes as its object the person being sanctioned.


(4) Harry violated Sally.

(5) Harry violated Texas law.

(6) The investigator will violate Harry for police misconduct.

But not:

(7) *The investigator will violate Texas law for Harry’s misconduct.

The difference is apparent in the ambiguity of (4) and the absence of ambiguity of (5). Violated in statement (4) could be either violate (2) or violate (3). It may mean Harry sanctioned Sally for a rule violation, or that Harry committed a violent act upon Sally. But violated in statement (5) unambiguously means violate (2), Harry dishonored the law. This is because only violate (2) can take a law, regulation, or custom as its object.

Another example of zero derived professional slang is

(8) KA (trans), to identify a person’s “known associates”, from KA (subj), a person’s “known associates”.


(9) I’ll KA the victim.

Besides the references linked above, the article “Verbing Nouns” by John Lawler was very helpful in writing this answer.

The lawler weight of this answer is 0.55 lw.

  • Using a different sense of lawler weight, meaning both fascinating and demonstrating impeccable grammatical chops simultaneously, I propose the lawlerweight of this post is 7. If I could, upvote you again for the link to that meta-post, which I'd never seen before.
    – Dan Bron
    May 2, 2016 at 17:40
  • @DanBron Possibly because it was closed.
    – MetaEd
    May 2, 2016 at 20:00
  • Arguably, these are polysemes rather than homonyms. Another example of a switch to a different but obviously still related meaning is the definition of transitive 'vote': 'to get {people} [out] to vote'. They voted the suburbs. Feb 8, 2023 at 20:04

The phenomenon and label of the change is one thing, and the result is labeled another thing.

In the specific community (of aviation; I don't think I've heard this at all before so I'm assuming it is limited to here), it is simply a change in syntax accompanied by semantic drift.

The result, where a passive form is interpreted actively, is called a

deponent verb

In any other circumstance I would call this an error, but if everybody in the community consistently uses it that way, then that's 'correct'/how you do it/how you'd be understood for that community.

If I were forced at gunpoint to encapsulate everything into one word, I would say that 'violate' was


but that's a bit of a mouthful so I'd prefer

"'violate' became a deponent verb".

There are other words to describe the nuances of process/different usage though. The 'agency' of the subject is changed despite the usual conventions of active or passive form. Likewise the valency (number of nouns related by the verb) changed. It's as though the active bivalent/transitive 'The pilot violated the rule' changed to the active univalent/intransitive 'the pilot violated (committed a violation)', and the intransitive slipped into the similarly univalent form of the passive 'the pilot was violated' idiomatically (but keeping the order and semantics of the active).

  • 1
    I think one potential rationale is a violation is a count noun, and for pilots the count is very important. Like points on your driving license, accruing too many violations, even minor ones, can lead to revocation. And, as my English teacher in 10th grade used to point out "When a paper is handed back with an A, you tell everyone 'I got an A!', but when it comes back with an F, you cry 'He gave me an F!". Similarly, if pilots feel they've been cited for a violation unjustly, they can say the administration violated them. Pure speculation, but plausible and fun.
    – Dan Bron
    May 2, 2016 at 17:44

The question asked for other examples.

Here's one example:

Police officer 1: "Should we trespass him"?

Police officer 2: "Yes, let's trespass him".

Police officer 1 (to subject being detained):

"You are trespassed from here, do you understand?" -- meaning you will be charged with trespassing if you ever come back to the location

Many examples of this can be found on websites featuring bodycam videos from law enforcement.

See for example 12:48-13:02 here:

Freedom Christopher Phaendler's Walmart Arrest on YouTube.

And here's another example that is somewhat parallel:

When the landlord "takes steps to forfeit a lease" it means that the landlord is causing the lease to be canceled, to be placed in forfeiture. It is the tenant who forfeits right in such a case, but the landlord who takes action. to say "the landlord forfeits the lease" is short for "the landlord places the lease into forfeiture". Yes this usage can be confusing, but it is quite common.

From this answer in the "Law" Stack Exchange site.

Granted, to be completely parallel to the case in the original question, it might have to be the tenant that was "forfeited" by the landlord, not the lease.


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