Thursday 9 June 2011

Verbing Nouns

We hate verbing nouns, don't we? It's just another symptom of the decline of the English language. Soon we'll all be speaking Jafaican, or txt speak – or was that last year's panic?

Here's what the Economist style guide has to say: Try not to verb nouns or to adjective them. So do not access files, haemorrhage red ink, let one event impact another, author books (still less co-author them), critique style sheets, host parties, pressure colleagues, progress reports, trial programmes or loan money. And though it is sometimes necessary to use nouns as adjectives, there is no need to call an attempted coup a coup attempt... Vilest of all is the habit of throwing together several nouns into one ghastly adjectival reticule: Texas millionaire real-estate developer and failed thrift entrepreneur Hiram Turnipseed... [Actually, educated Americans abominate this practice.]

We all hate access action architect author caveat conflicted contact gift
host for “played host to” (but you can’t put that in a headline – and actually it’s a revival of an archaic use)
ideate impact incent
leverage (in finance, means “borrow the money”)
retributed (The Apprentice Oct 27 10)
surface (for bring to the surface)
target task vacation (He vacationed in Hawaii.)
incentivise marketise monetise televise weaponise

But just because management bollocks is irritating, it doesn’t meant that you should rush about claiming that the sky is falling and making up rules that you should never verb nouns, or quoting Calvin and Hobbes (“Verbing weirds language”) as if they were the Bible. Surely nobody minds these:

book (Book him!)
boot (out)
box (box up, mint and boxed)
bridge (bridge that gap)
broker (a peace deal)
bus (people from place to place)
doughnut [Doughnutting is a] practice used in televised sessions in the UK's House of Commons (and other places) of surrounding the speaker at any one time with a coterie of camp followers who would yell "hear hear " and other such things. This would hopefully work to distract the cameraman's attention from the facts that firstly, most of the seats in the chamber would be empty, and secondly most of the remainder would be occupied by MPs who were filling in crosswords, sleeping, or otherwise unengaged in parliamentary business.
earth (an electrical device)
effort (She efforted to overcome many difficulties in her life.)
eye (a bargain, a prospect)
fence (off)
house (the homeless)
ice (up, in, over)
moon (about)
nose (out)
nostalge @elliotjbrown
obsess (obsessing over…)
picture this
pinkslip to lay off or fire from a job "The company pinkslipped 60 staffers in its New York office Monday." (Variety)
pocket These job losses are going to be pocketed in areas where we can trim a little more. (tailoring metaphors from government spokeswoman)
pot (potted meat, potted plant)
rain just about fringeing in… BBC weather man Liam, nutshell
sand (down this piece of furniture)
stress (stressing about…)
sugar (your cornflakes)
table a motion
thrift (buy clothes in thrift stores)
trouser (the change)
trucked/bussed in
wall up/off/in

And nouning verbs can be fun
usage dwindle, mission creep


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