Tuesday, September 06, 2005
Making Nouns into Verbs
Has anyone else noticed that our lingusitically impoverished nation has a penchant for making nouns indiscriminately into verbs? The most recent one I heard is "tasked," as in "She was tasked to do X." A task is an activity, a state of affairs in which something is accomplished. But now it is a verb. As my wife says, "Any noun can be verbed." I still refuse to use "access" as a verb. One "has access." It is a noun! And you will never catch me saying, "He transitioned..." Well, having curmudgeoned, I'm done-- for tonight.
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I have the opposite problem, my last name is Grow ;). Typically my last name is understood (used) as a verb but in my case, it is a noun :) :( ;).
As someone who has spent far too much time researching the relationships and evolving sociological dynamics intrinsic to the parts of speech, this phenomenon is no surprise to experts in sociological etymologies - or etymological socials.
It is a long-anticipated backlash to the nouning of verbs, something that was inevitable perhaps due to a tragic oversight, i.e., the decision to declare the word "verb" to be a noun.
It first manifested itself when people stopped running and "went for a run." Then, rather than napping, people "grabbed a nap." Biting became "having a bite." In time, people stopped thinking and instead simply "had a thought" - which, being singular, meant dullness and low creativity.
Now the verbs have retaliated and the tide has shifted. We have little choice, I fear, other than to go with the flow - or, better, to flowalize. The choice is to be abandoned (abandonized) and left behind (butted).
Nutsying to me, shiftizing is a necessary course for survivalfying.
I don't think that this is at all due to "linguistic impoverishment". After all, Shakespeare loved to shift parts of speech back and forth, and use words in unusual ways (off the top of my head, Lady Macbeth's "unsex me here" comes to mind, but there are other phrases in Shakespeare where he has changed the part of speech of some word and his usage is now common). This is part of the way modern English works. Granted, it is probably only part of how modern English works because Shakespeare and others (even the King James Bible!) manhandled it in its infancy, but it is nevertheless part of the linguistic landscape of the English-speaking world. So I say, verbify to your heart's content!
Shakespeare obviously was lacking in sufficient creativity to write more better or was just stupid and could'nt have knowed better.
So I say, let's not shakespeare the language no more.
“Task” has been a transitive verb since at least the 1600s, as proven by a usage by John Dryden: “. . . there task thy maids, and exercise the loom.”
(I can't believe some people are taking this discussion seriously.)
This morning I heard in the radio a clip from the mayor of a city in the California bay area, saying that she wanted their city to be "readier" (i.e. better prepared) than New Orleans if a hurricane hit the area...
Speaking of King James and the changing English language, I have a question that perhaps somebody here can answer.
I'm sure you have all heard the popular charge against Biblical inerrancy "the Bible calls bats birds".
Obviously, context and proper translations nullify this criticism as it applies to the original text, but my question is this: is there any evidence, as I am hoping, that in 17th century English it would be entirely correct to refer to any flying creature as a fowl? Had the word perhaps not yet become synonymous with birds and only with birds? My feeling is that the very context is evidence that it was valid to use the word to describe bats and flying insects, and that it has merely become more discriminate since the writing. Does anybody know of any extra-Biblical reference that might support this thought? Or am I just wrong, and is the translation a poor one?
It's a delicate balance, I think - the language evolves as we create new words. But using made-up words means you might not be communicating clearly. You also risk sounding unprofessional and stupid. (I'll add to this discussion in my blog next week - http://blog.writeitwell.com.)
A few months ago I read an article in Canada's Globe and Mail (the NY Times of Toronto if you will). Here is an excerpt:
"Some couples read in bed, still others on the porch in warm weather. Some take turns reading (reader and readee), while others delegate one person."
Apparently reader and LISTENER hadn't occurred to the author of such piffle.
Tonight, a celebrity on TV turned the noun "concrete" into the verb "concretize."
The one noun I will never use as a verb is "impact". I actually cringe whenever some mentions how "impacted" they were by an event. Ugh... I just typed it...I need to go wash my hands.
Was just kvetching to my husband, about all of the nouns that are suddenly 'verbs'. I mean, really....gifting? Give me a break! How about (from the stupid entertainment shows) TRENDING? Hello? What happened to reason? It's time these people came down to earth and stopped the madness. (posting on 20 Dec, 2010)
Does anyone know when the noun "access" was first used as a verb? The 1976 Websters Third New International Dictionary lists it as a verb BUT only in the addenda section. It is in the dictionary section as a noun only. This leads me to believe that "access" became verbalized in the Computer Age just before the Apple explosion of the 80s and probably by some computer jockeys.
Is there a linguistic term for the process of modifying a noun and "making" it a verb? I've seen people use "verbing" to describe the phenomenon but I swore that there was a "real" word associated with it. I thought I had come across it when I was a copy editor but for the life of me I can't recall what it might have been. My personal favorite is "RVing." We're RVing across the country. Ummm, no! Does "we are recreational vehicling across the country" at all sound rihgt? Try "We are DRIVING/TAKING the RV across country."
Curmudgeon, you've hit on one of my own pet peeves. Erin, are you thinking of gerunds?
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