Thursday, July 02, 2009

Nerbing a voun

We were emailing at work - instead of working at work, because it was more convenient that way - the other day about the verbing of nouns, the habit people had of turning particular nouns into related verbs. Instead of saying 'I am going (verb) to lunch (noun)', according to Macquarie Dictionary, it is now acceptable simply to say 'I lunch (verb)'. Another example that came up was how, during the Olympics, certain comperes and presenters had begun to say 'And now the winners will podium (verb)', instead of, say 'And now the winners will walk (verb) to the podium (noun).'

Well I didn't accept it then and I don't accept it now. I mean, how far is this verbing of nouns going to go? If we take language in the direction it seems to be going, pretty soon we will not 'walk up the street' to 'eat some lunch' and 'have a drink', we will 'street up the street' to 'lunch some lunch' and 'drink a drink', and when we come back to work we will not 'sit in a chair' and 'type on a keyboard', before going to 'catch the train' home, where we will 'watch the television' and then 'go to bed': we will simply come back to work where we will 'chair in a chair' and 'keyboard on a keyboard', and 'train a train' home, where we will 'television the television' for a while before 'bedding to bed'. And while it is true that we have always used the words 'drink' and 'bed' as both noun and verb, and 'lunch' has for some time operated in both capacities, other words have until now remained entirely distinct. We have perfectly good, and separate verbs for all of those actions described above: 'eating' and 'drinking' and 'walking' and 'typing', and so on.

Having obliterated the distinction between verb and noun, and between the act and what is acted upon, will language halt there? I fear not: for as the great juggernaut of language rolls on, pretty soon, single acts will be implied in one single, all-encompasssing word. So instead of 'walking down the street' to 'eat some lunch' and 'have a drink', or even 'streeting the street' to 'lunch on lunch' and 'drink some drink', people will find themselves simply 'streeting'. Pretty soon, the whole vast world of distinctions and separate existences and poetry and singular essences that is implied and touched upon in the English language will have vanished; and instead, we will have nothing more than a small collection of four or five verbnouns to imply this whole vanished world.

Alternatively, language could go in the opposite direction altogether; and whereas before we verbed nouns with aplomb, now we could start nouning verbs. We would not 'eat lunch', we would 'eat eats'; we would not 'sit in a chair', we would 'sit in a sit'. In a great retroreaction we could obliterate the whole other half of language: and that would be not only a tragedy, but a reverse tragedy of the other one.

All this I said, or tried to say, in my emailing at work. Or, rather, I tried to say in the email that I sent at work. Language, Timothy, please!


Dan the VespaMan said...

Ah but Tim, is this not simply part of the natural evolution of language? Is it because we have run out of verbs, lack necessary imagination to invent brand new one's and so adapt our favourite nouns to perform the task?

Perhaps our current verbs are proving inadequate in the modern world. Is it right to use the word "blog" as a verb?

Maria said...

I think it's already happened, I mean using "eat" as a noun. And referring to "train" as a verb.

Are you going to train it home? What eats do you have?

I think plenty have accepted that many words can be used as both nouns and verbs, or nouns and adjectives, or whatever.

I think the one that sticks in my mind is "invite" used as a noun. "Have you received the invite?" (rather than 'invitation').

I'm not so concerned about this, what really sticks in my craw are "cool spellings" of words, often recognised by small cliques and used in blog situations and often used to hide sexual or dirty words or 'in-words'.

Reading a whole lot of so called adults write constantly of "bewbs" "secksi" "pr0n" "keeeewl-chix" or stating "U R haaaaaawt!". I can understand terrible abbreviations used in SMS when you are charged per character. This stuff just looks terrible though.

Some state that it's just to get around filters so they can discuss prohibited things without being prohibited (funnily some of these people start preaching about morality and law and superiority of culture on their blog) and some seem to think it's "kewl".

Does my head in, if they like it, well they can have it but I avoid it!

Maria said...

Dan, perhaps some others have run out of verbs, but if they left the job to TimT, I'm sure he could come up with the right brand new verb for the job.

The TimT Verb Factory - producing the Right Verb for Your Individual Needs!

TimT said...

But isn't the issue not whether verbing a noun is possible (clearly it is), but the extent to which it should occur? It's fair enough having the word 'drink' be both a verb and a noun; but should we then instantly accept every random noun-verbing that comes along? For instance, the verb 'to podium' mentioned above.

Maria said...

Now now, TimT, are you saying there are some nouns that are more acceptable to verb and others that are not. like "drink" is ok but "podium" is not? YOu can drink a drink and stand in a stand but to podium on a podium is just ridiculous?

You sound like a very discrminatory wordist type TimT and I'm surprised at your elitist views!

I'll bet you 'podium' has been wandering around thinking "if 'stand' and 'drink' can do it, why not me? Why not, I tell ya!? I'm as good as them, why I'm better, I've got three syllables and I work very hard for each of them! I demand my right to verb myself!"

And then some oppressive type like TimT comes along ...

TimT said...

Oppressive, and proud of it.

TimT said...

Why, it seems like only yesterday I was oppressing garlic in the kitchen...

Blandwagon said...

I'll be efforting to follow your example.

kae said...

Sounds like you've been getting your murds wixed up, too.

I've just clocked your avatar - are you looking like that 'cos you've discovered you can levitate?

Now I'd better read your post... I hate verbed nouns.

Sports teams no long play games, they have wins or losses. "So and so injured his groin in X teams win against Y team". Bloody hell.

So many more.

WV: unroat
verbed nouns should remain unroat.

kae said...

Hi Maria
Sometimes the word "pr0n" is used to trick spam filters.
Some blog comments reject the word "porn" to stop spammers.
Email programmes dump them into the junk mail, so the use of "pr0n".
I'm with you on the use of other abbreviations.

Maria said...

I know kae, and they have made porn look even worse!

Maria said...

My word verification is "fibiting" - is "fibit" averb or a noun or neither or both?

TimT said...

Sports teams no long play games, they have wins or losses.

That's an interesting one, it sounds like the sports journalist are thinking in fatalistic terms - as if the outcome of a game has been fated from the dawn of time.

Maria said...

Is "gaming" another voun? or nerb? or whatever?

Email: timhtrain - at -

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