‘To Barb’ Or ‘Cut Your Hair’?

By Hassan Abdulbaqi

One can simply cut his/her hair or have a haircut but one cannot barb his/her hair simply because barber was not derived from the word ‘barb’. Barb, of course, is not a verb but a noun which has no relationship with the profession of a barber. ‘Barb’ refers to the point of an arrow or a hook that is curved backwards to make it difficult to pull out. Barb also refers to a remark that is meant to hurt somebody’s feelings.

The major reason that can be alluded to this error is the case of analogical change where forms of words are extended from their limited space. Since speakers are used to getting nouns that end with ‘-er’ from their verbs, like:


Actor: A person who acts a play

Caterer: A person who caters by providing food and drinks at events

Teacher: A person who teaches

Writer: A person who writes

Trader: One who trades by buying things for sale


They create the space for the analogical change which is apparent in their spoken English by thinking that a barber is a person who simply barbs but no! Barber is not coined from the noun ‘barb’ and neither is the ‘-er’ a suffix that had been added to ‘barb’, just like a carpenter is not a person who carpents for the word is non-existent in English, neither is broiler a person who broils but broiler is rather a young chicken that is  suitable for boiling or roasting.



‘Barbing salon’ or ‘barbershop’?

The same error of mapping usual forms to exempted forms as in the case of ‘barber’ also reflects in ‘barbing salon’. Just like we have hairdressing salon, we feel ‘barbing salon’ should also fit. Since it has been established that ‘barb’ is not a verb, it cannot take the ‘-ing’ suffix which is specifically used to make the present continuous tense of verbs, neither can it be made into a gerund which is usually in the form of the present participle of a verb because it is not a verb in the first place. This makes the term ‘barbing salon’ incorrect. The appropriate English word for the place where a barber works is ‘barbershop’ or ‘barber’s shop’ depending on the English variants.

If you enjoy this article, you should not miss reading these similar posts (SO THAT YOU DON’T BECOME LIKE ME,  ‘CRAM’ AND ‘MEMORISE’: SYNONYMS OR DIFFERENT WORDS? and LIN 102 FIRST TEST DRAMA)


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