Itching or scratching?

As this LinkedIn post from Rob got a surprising number of views and some passionate responses, we thought it was worth adding it here for posterity. Of course, the most important thing in writing is that people know what you mean, but we writers do get a bit precious about use and misuse of words.



I'm itching to get this off my chest!

If there's one misused word that really gets to me, it is the word 'itch'. My children ask me to itch their backs. I say that I can't create an itch because it is a sensation which the body creates itself. They look at me strangely and tell me to get on with it.

But it's not just my kids - I hear it everywhere. To itch has become a verb. It is the action you take in response to... an itch! 

That seems as illogical as saying, 'My head hurts, could you hurt it'.

Of course there are many nouns which are also verbs. But a noun which describes a sensation surely needs a different word to describe the action that you take in response to it. 

I guess there may be a positive side to this. 'The seven year itch' may lose its negative connotations and now become a celebratory custom between couples every seven years. An extended back itch to reaffirm their abiding love for each other.

Now I'll probably get shot down, told that language evolves, and that I just need to catch up with the times. But some evolutions just cause confusion, and those are the ones that bother me.

All this matters to us, because within a few years I suspect that we'll be asked to write copy for a new patented Back Itcher. And then what will we do?