Shop this outfit. No, actually, please don’t.

Model with 'Shop this outfit' caption

Since when did ‘shop’ become a transitive verb?

There was a time when you ‘went shopping’, ‘did the shopping’ or ‘shopped for’ something. You didn’t shop anything – or anyone, unless you were some kind of criminal.

So I was surprised when I checked out Marks and Spencer’s nice new website recently to find several instructions to ‘Shop this outfit’. And it doesn’t stop there: there’s ‘Shop new arrivals’, ‘Shop more occasion outfits’ and ‘Shop our edit’ (how is that even a sentence?). In fact, it’s all over the shop (sorry).

And it’s not just Marks and Spencer copywriting. Now that I’ve seen it, I’m noticing this usage everywhere. Perhaps it’s one of those crimes against English invented by the fashion industry (see also ‘a trouser’). Do they think it sounds better? And if so, why?

My dictionary is very clear on the subject. Intransitive verb, often followed by ‘for’. (The only time it is transitive is with the secondary meaning: British slang for ‘inform on’.)

And taking the lead from David Marsh’s wise and entertaining grammar book For Who the Bell Tolls, I can also use a pop song to prove my point. It’s called Shoppin’ for Clothes. If it’s good enough for the Coasters…


4 thoughts on “Shop this outfit. No, actually, please don’t.

  1. I need to lie down after reading your post as I feel rather queasy. I’m definitely with you on this one – it’s awful. I loathe the term ‘gifting’ for what used to be plain old gifts.
    But ‘shop this’ is so ridiculous given it’s other meaning. It’s like ‘medalling’ which I first noticed at the Beijing Olympics. Don’t people realise how daft they sound?

  2. Completely agree – what is wrong with the words ‘buy’ or ‘purchase’, which is what they actually want us to do, surely?

    While you are blogging about word mis-use, please have a go on the use of ‘invite’ as a noun!

  3. A focus group probably decided that buy is too aggressive and shop has friendlier, rounded, child-safe edges.

    It’s amazing how much of this stuff gets through without the voice of common sense raising its head and saying: “Hang on a minute, this just sounds stupid now.”


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