Binge Listening

24 05 2010

I just heard this new term:  binge listening

They’re now saying – forget about binge drinking; the latest medical warning being put out there concerns binge listening. In particular this warning is aimed at the clubbing demographic, but also anyone else who is exposed to long bouts of very loud sound/noise (from jack hammers to drums).  Early signs of hearing loss are being detected, not good news as apparently, once hearing is lost, it can’t be regained.

Binge is a great word and very flexible. It can be a countable noun (one binge, two binges), or can operate as a verb (to binge) or a gerund (binging). Dictionaries define it as a period or bout of certain activity., a short but intensive time span of dedicated or excessive indulgence (like eating, drinking, doing drugs, even shopping). It hails from an English dialect word that appeared in the mid-19th century, and that means, rather tellingly, “to soak”.

The creation of binge listening follows a common generative pattern in English. One word (eg binge) becomes widely used, and over time the –ing form of various verbs is added to it to form a compound. This is not unlike the various rages (eg road rage, hose range, hedge rage), in which case the rage is a kind of separate-word suffix, and all that changes is the word that precedes it, in this example, referring to the context in which the bout of anger exploded (on the road, in the garden, with the neighbour in regard to the view etc).

In the light of the old axiom about moderation, binging carries a negative connotation, and even sounds kind of self-indulgent and … dare I say it, kind of soaky.




4 responses

24 05 2010
Mark C

I’m not sure about self-indulgent. Rather I think the binging connotation in this context is as a kind of close attentiveness. Surely this is flattery more than anything else . . .

I think more people should listen (binge and otherwise) rather than just biding their time waiting to rush in with poorly thought through positions . . . .

25 05 2010

I agree that we could all do with better listening skills. Surely “binge listening” is a different thing, though? Connotes high decibels and mindless noise, right?

5 06 2010
Stephen H N Hofstee

What next, binge soaking? (Or should that be soak binging?) Over-the-top self-indulgence or simply linguistic redundancy?

8 06 2010

Well, theoretically, one can add “binge” to any gerund form to create a compound, where in every case the first element (“binge”) suggests an over-indulgence in the second element (“-ing”).

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