Verbing weirds language.

Pick someone who rates their grammar skills, and try saying this: “Your rampant pedantry is impacting me negatively.”   

Watch: First their faces grow red. They sputter. Flecks of spit gather like soap scum in the corner of their mouths. Hands shake and reach for their receding hairlines. They suppress the urge to correct. But not for long. “IMPACT is a noun! You can’t ‘impact’ something! It’s WRONG! WRONG!!!”

Then try saying this “Um, chillax dude. Grammar? Like, whatevs.”  Boom.  Splatter.  You have just made a human being explode. 

Some rules are dumb. Like splitting infinitives. To boldly go is technically wrong. To go boldly, which is a clunker, technically right.  The writer appears to intentionally split them, and the reader tends to willingly let it ride.   But for some reason people find verbing – no matter how cute or convenient – appalling.  

Not linguists – they pretend that knowing all the rules makes them impervious to incorrect usage.  They’ll adopt an infuriatingly casual tone when they tell you ‘language is an evolving thing – you can’t set it down in a book’.  But you should see them match tenses when they’re writing for a linguistics audience.

Verbing is not new.  Nouning is also possible, and has been around since forever.  Command, request and invite were once happy verbs, before being nouned way back in Shakespeare’s day.   Shakespeare breakfasted on words.  And dinnered on made-up words.  

I have found that it’s not just nouns that can be verbed.  Try these bastardised adjectives on:  Matured; narrowed, rounded, wetted.  Not so bad huh?  But What about these?  

Mysterioused, ruthlessed, honested, ludicroused.  Try using them in your everyday life – ‘I honested when I had the opportunity to lie, cheat and steal,’ – maybe they’ll stick!  

What about these: If I can google, I want also to be able to itune. If I can microwave, I want also to be able to stove and oven.  If I can lie, I want to be able to truth.   I could bike to my destination, may I car there if it’s raining? If I can carpet something comprehensively, I feel there should have the option to partially rug it.  

Verbing – does it anger you?  Are you cool with it?  Any you’d like to coin?  The corporate world is a hotbed of misuse – share the ones that have got under your skin!

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Thomas the Think Engine is the blog of a trained economist. It comes to you from Melbourne Australia.

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