Please Stop Verbing Your Nouns

I’m going to start this post with a confession.

I’m part of the generation that was never formally taught English grammar. I don’t know what adverb means*, I think pronouns sound slightly seedy, and that conjunction is something that happens in a car park outside a prison.

But I do know that if you use a noun as a verb, you’re going to look like a complete and utter berk.

For your reference, here is the difference between a noun and a verb:

noun  /noun/  nouns, plural A word (other than a pronoun) used to identify any of a class of people, places, or things (common noun), or to name a particular one of these (proper noun)

verb noun /vərb/  verbs, plural A word used to describe an action, state, or occurrence, and forming the main part of the predicate of a sentence, such as hear, become, happen (Yes, verb is a noun. This is why I’m generally opposed to spending any time with formal grammar. It just winds me up)

“Verbing” – a truly horrific phenomenon

Verbing, or verbification, is the practice of taking a harmless, charming little noun and forcibly cramming it into parts of a sentence where a verb would normally sit.

For example, “Inbox”, a noun referring to the part of your email account where incoming mail is shown, has been verbed.

Where we’d once say something quick and cheerful like “drop me an email”, certain people now use the brutally curt “inbox me”.

And it looks horrible.

Wikipedia claims that verbification is a generator of neologisms, and a demonstration that English is a wonderful, living language that’s shaped by the people who use it.

Personally, I think that if you can’t be trusted to use a word properly (or at least attractively), you shouldn’t be allowed to form sentences.

And here are the worst offenders. Steer clear of verbifying these nouns, unless you want to look like a complete pillock.

These are NOUNS, not VERBS

I put a message out across Twitter to see whether others felt the same way I do about the scourge of verbing. Unsurprisingly, there’s a fair few strong opinions out there. So make sure you steer clear of the following:

Inbox

My own bete noire, inbox, is a textbook case of unnecessary verbing. There are many alternatives to wielding inbox as a verb; text me, email me, drop me a line. In fact, I’d hazard a guess that every sort of messaging system that uses an inbox has its own, more palateable alternative.

Weird

Ever been in a situation when something’s made you feel weird? I have. Most recently, it was when someone let me know that spiders “just weird [them]“. Oh dear. There’s only one instance when you should use weird as a verb, and that’s when you explain to people that verbing weirds language.

Architect (Suggested by @BetaRish)

Architect is a word that doesn’t work as a verb. While some on this list at least have a thin veneer of acceptability, there’s just no way I can wedge architect in to a sentence in that way. I’ll architect that for you? He architected that building? We architect solutions? Eugh. It’s probably the last one, isn’t it?

Minute (Suggested by @jannamark)

I assume that’s minute as in 60 seconds, not minute as in tiny. Either way, it’s clumsy and incredibly specialised. In case you didn’t know, you minute the minutes of a meeting. Instead of just writing them down.

Medal (Suggested by @TurnerInk)

If there’s one thing guaranteed to wind me up about the London Olympics, it’s the fact that I’ll be expected to cheer if someone from the hinterlands of Wales wins a medal in Greco-Roman 100m walking. If there’s two things that’ll wind me up, the second will be someone using medal as a verb.

Trend (Suggested by @SquidofPurple)

Another confession. I like trend as a verb. But I’m the sort of smug Twitter user that lives in hope that a hastily-constructed hashtag will be sent into the trending topics by a casual RT from Brian Blessed. The rest of you, I imagine, look upon things that trend with disgust in your eyes.

Action (Suggested by @thedailysarah)

Welcome to Buzzwords 101. In this webinar, we’ll be actioning these solutions to produce blogpreneurial outcomes. Yeah. Sarah’s right. This one seriously f**ks me off too.

Dialogue – (Suggested by @suewalder)

Can’t we just talk?

 

Obviously this isn’t a definitive list, and there’s plenty of room for more suggestions. If you feel strongly about verbing, share your outrage or your spirited defence in the comments section. Just don’t you dare inbox me.

* I do. This is just for comic effect.

20 Comments comments for "Please Stop Verbing Your Nouns"

  1. Sarah Turner says:

    I was reading Grazia the other day and they said something like ‘we’re really crushing …this £500 necklace’. As in ‘we have a crush on this necklace’. Really? To me it read like they’d sat on it.

    And up there with ‘inbox me’ is ‘Facebook me’. I hear that all the time.

  2. Hannah Marsh says:

    My favourite was heard on a US tv show (news I think) – “he was funeralized…”. I can’t even begin to describe how awful that is, on so many levels.

  3. I think the problem lies not in the process of verbing itself – which has given us perfectly sensible and acceptable verbs like “to pepper” (eg to pepper a story with risque’ anecdotes), “to contact” (to get in touch with someone without specifying a particular medium), “to prioritise”, “to question”, “to enthuse”, etc. – but rather in the ghastly lack of taste which which some linguistic poseurs choose to use it.

  4. Another one from Facebook is ‘friend’ (e.g. ‘friend me on facebook’) – but they don’t stop at verbing, they’ve started nouning too! How many likes does your page have? This terrors me.

  5. Pete says:

    You could start a whole new topic on “adjectising verbs”, too. Anyone for “winningest”? Makes my pen finger itch!

  6. John Polk says:

    I hear way too many verbifications at work, so I started a list:
    – analogize: to use an analogy
    – behavioralize: to practice a competency with new behaviors
    – capacitize: it increase capacity in an operation
    – deacronymize: to spell out acronyms
    – densify: to concentrate
    – digify: to make something digital
    – generacize: to make generic
    – preparate: to prepare
    – productionalize: to put a prototype into production
    – robustify: to make more robust
    – tangiblize: to make something more tangible
    – upskill: to train someone

    Let me know when you write about adjectiving (computery, parallely)

  7. Richard Hollins says:

    I heard a terrible one on an American programme last night: role model.

    As in “I need you to role model this behaviour.”

  8. FionaC says:

    Similarly annoyed by the trending of verbing nouns…

    http://subsstandards.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/guardians-needs-legalling-typo-highlights-trend-for-verbing-nouns/

    Thanks for the Calvin & Hobbes – I can’t believe verbing has been cartooned. Even more annoyed at how taking the piddle is leading me verb so excessively. Suspect am architecting own downfall.

  9. Mark says:

    Nice post, but aren’t your alternatives to “inbox me” – “email me” or “text me” – examples of verbing too? They’ve just become accepted over time, as, no doubt, inbox will be.

  10. Bel says:

    We do it, too. A new one is ‘simsen’. In German, verbs end on en. So if you want somebody to send you an SMS, the ‘verb’ would be smsen – but since nobody can pronounce that, it’s now simsen. 😀

    As for the examples given above: I’m probably guilty of having used one or the other, but as a foreigner I can’t know what does and what doesn’t exist. 😉

  11. Mitchell Cohen says:

    “Please stop verging your nouns”

    You first. “Stop” is a verb that was originally a noun. It’s even listed on the Wikipedia page for “Conversion (linguistics)”.

  12. Jenny L says:

    Retail websites do another thing – using an existing verb in the wrong way. So they’ll say ‘10% off shoes – shop it now’. Or ‘Boat chic: shop the look’. No, silly – it’s ‘get the look’. Everyone knows that! Or ‘shop *for* the look’.

  13. Ellie says:

    But language isn’t static and unchanging. Word-perversion in common usage is how language evolves. The language that is being pedestaled here is also an evolution of a previous incarnation of the same language.

  14. “Onboard” is one that seems to have sprung up recently. As in “We need to onboard new team members with our thinking”. Grrr.

  15. David White says:

    The first time I remember hearing a noun used as a verb was when the art director I was working with told me his wife “gifted” him a new something or the other. As a copywriter, I jokingly refer to myself as a word butcher but even I hate the “verbing” of nouns. Ah, but verbing does make the speaker or writer appear to be more hip than the prole who is at the receiving end of the communication.

    But there is a real reason to resist and even hate this trend:
    I once read that when you “round off” the meaning of a word or law, each begins to lose their meaning and effectiveness.

  16. Bill Jackson says:

    You say that you don’t know what an adverb is, and then you go on the inform us that verbing nouns is “bad”. In fact, verbing nouns is integral to the English language. The technical term for it is denominalization. If you don’t like it, what do you say instead of “it’s raining”? Rain and snow are nouns that became denominalized centuries ago. Hundreds of our verbs are denominalized nouns. I don’t know how any of you manage to communicate without them.

    Language evolves. And the function of a grammarian is to describe how language is used, not to issue commandments.

    This complaint is in the same category as the complaints about splitting infinitives or ending on a preposition. All perfectly normal usage. The error is made by the people who insist on “correcting” them.

    Of course there’s lots of clumsy, lazy or just ugly use of language. Prescribing simplistic rules just doesn’t solve that.

    http://www.dailywritingtips.com/the-verbing-of-the-english-language/

    • Andrew says:

      Thanks for a well thought out contrasting viewpoint, Bill. It’s certainly food for thought.

    • Nacnud Nosmoht says:

      yeah but… Most of these verbalizations (like that?) are just awkward and unnecessary. Why say “inbox me” when you can say “send me an email” or “email me”. True, the latter is also using a noun as a verb, but it was invented because it made sense and there wasn’t already a word for it. Creating a new word when there’s a perfectly good one available just makes you look like an idiot trying to be hip.

  17. Nacnud Nosmoht says:

    The one I love to hate the most: “Gift”. There is just NO WAY that should be used as a verb. “He gifted her a present”. Aaaaargh! The reason that one is so horrible is that the correct alternative is so simple: “He gave her a present.”

    You deserve to be gifted with kick in the ass if you use that one!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>