The Verbification Of Nouns: Grammar Crimes of the 21st Century

And so it has come to this. In the on-going quest to find complex and different ways to express otherwise straightforward and pedestrian thoughts, we are verbifying our nouns at an unprecedented pace. (And yes, the coining of the word ‘verbifying’ was for effect, and is an equally heinous crime for which I should no doubt be flogged).

I was reminded of the horrors of unprompted and unnecessary verification when the Globe & Mail released its style guidelines for the upcoming Olympic game coverage:

Specifically, I draw your attention to the line which states, “In respect to the English language, please do not use <strong>medal</strong> as a verb.” Ignoring the fact that such actions should be <em>out of respect for</em> the English language, the point is an important one. For perfectly useful, innocent nouns, quietly minding their own business in entirely respectable neighbourhoods, are experiencing unprecedented levels of muggings and thuggery; they are being set upon in record numbers and being press-ganged into verbs.

Now it’s not like we don’t already have enough verbs to go around. You would think that they would all be quite happy fraternizing amongst themselves. But apparently not. For not only do we have ‘medaled’ as a verb, and ‘medaling’, both of which are entirely meddlesome in their own right, but courtesy of the Sochi games we also seem to now have ‘podiumed’:

Of course, this is not a new phenomenon. It has been around for awhile, and shows no signs of declining. In particular, the information technology industry and the legion of consultants it has spawned seem to take great pleasure in verbifying nouns with reckless abandon. They have, as a result, graced our lexicon with such mind benders as ‘solutionizing’, ‘dialoguing’, ‘workshopping’, ‘actioning’, ‘tasking’ and ‘transitioning’. Not to mention ‘friending’, ‘unfriending’, ‘pinging’, ‘texting’ and ‘tweeting’. In fact, some of those have been used with such frequency that they now appear almost normal.

It is also not a phenomenon that is going away. Truth be told, we have been doing it for centuries. There are, in the lexicon, untold perfectly respectable verbs in common usage that can trace their ancestry back to being nouns. In fact, those who specialize in grammar have a word for it: ‘denominalisation’. According to one recent article in Intelligent Life, the process is in part what makes English the language it is. And that the reason that we mug unsuspecting nouns and make them verbs is that we are inherently lazy, and looking for a shortcut. Which would suggest that those in IT are amongst the laziest I know.

Hopefully I’m not incensifying them when I say that.

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