April 22, 2014

What does it mean to ‘amazon’ something?


amazon (v): to unhinge your jaw and swallow booksellers whole

amazon (v): to unhinge your jaw and swallow booksellers whole

If we’re at the point of using ‘amazon’ as a verb, allow me to suggest a few definitions.

In an online tease for a BBC2 documentary about Amazon, the world’s favorite online database of highly detailed toilet plunger user reviews, Charles Miller gives a quick recap of the company’s history. It’s a sort of precis for Brad Stone‘s recent book about the company, touching on Amazon’s famously greedy demands on its workforce from the very beginning. Miller quotes famous Amazon alums and sometime-critics James Marcus, Mike Daisey, and Shel Kaphan. He also writes with admiration of Amazon’s insistence on hiring ‘smarter’ employees. But the best part might be right up top, where Miller writes:

Amazon is so much part of its customers’ lives that it may be about to receive the ultimate accolade – becoming a verb. “If I want to know something, I’ll google it. If I want to buy something, I’ll amazon it,” one of the company’s fans told the BBC.

I don’t think we’re quite at the point where ‘amazon’ as a verb is in general parlance. At least, it hasn’t cropped up even once until now in my own day to day conversations (and, as you might imagine, I tend to talk about Amazon more than some.) Which is perfect. It means we’re not too late to shape the word for ourselves. What might it mean when we use ‘amazon’ as a transitive verb? Here are some of my own offerings.

amazon (verb):

1. to grow without apparent limit

ex: I got this weird bite on my ankle and now it’s amazoned all the way up to my thigh. I should probably get this thing obamacared.

2. to laugh maniacally while crushing something underfoot

ex: He was cute, but when I went over to his house he had all of these amazon fetish DVDs laying around so I got the hell out.

3. to take ruthless advantage of the Public—infrastructure, air, general human good nature—in order to benefit yourself or your private customers

ex: Can I borrow your chainsaw? I’m gonna go amazon some trees in Central Park there to build a display case for my amazon fetish DVDs.

4. to abuse and infantilize your workforce for little pay

ex: Man, don’t go work for Amazon, I hear they really amazon people in there.

5. to hide your goals for brutal domination behind false impersonal forces like ‘disruption’

ex: I’m not sure why I keep finding these scorpions in my office. Jim in accounting says that they just fall from the ceiling but I think he might be amazoning me. No, not, like, crushing me, I mean…here, look at definition five.

6. to make a desk out of a door

ex: Wait did you amazon this desk? It looks like shit.

7. to offer people cheaper toilet paper if they will turn a blind eye to your wholesale destruction of their communities

ex: This town used to be nice but now it’s so bleak. Wal-Mart really amazoned this place didn’t they?


Have other suggestions for definitions of ‘to amazon’? Tweet them to us @melvillehouse and we’ll add our favorites to this post.


Dustin Kurtz is the marketing manager of Melville House, and a former bookseller.