Verbing Weirds Language

Published 27th April 2011
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Well, I was googling some facts the other day, and then I thought: “Isn’t it great how I can just google or wikipedia interesting facts, and then send them to that person I’ve been facebooking, to show off how much trivia I (pretend to) know?”

That’s a lie of course, I know plenty of trivia. I was actually trying to give a good example of verbing. Although my example is very internet-heavy, I hope it at least demonstrated how interesting it is that we’ve started using non-verbs as verbs. This process of verbing is known as a functional shift, and it is possible to shift the function of any word (possible, but not advisable – would you ever ask someone to “go fooding” with you?).

Even the word ‘verb’ has been verbed – ‘verb’ isn’t a verb, but it has been verbed just like any other non-verb, which I suppose makes it verb-able! (Yes, I was just trying to say ‘verb’ as many times as I possibly could in one sentence.)

Have you noticed this? We now ‘text’ people, rather than ‘send a text message’ to them, we ‘access’ things, and there are ladies who ‘lunch’. Some words work better than others, as demonstrated with ‘fooding.’ While we would ‘google’ something, you wouldn’t ‘dictionary’ or ‘encyclopaedia’ it. As is common in languages, the best test of a newly-verbed word is “does it sound good?”

What do you think of verbing? I for one think it is an interesting and rich source of self-expression, and think English would be a lot duller without its quirks. But there are those who believe it leads to a weakening in the language. I suppose this is where the old description vs prescription debate comes in…

Here’s a great Calvin and Hobbes strip about verbing, which I think you’ll enjoy:

Source: Strange Horizons



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