Wanna go verb­ing? Not on your life, kid

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - BERNADETTE KINLAW

I have to con­fess to “verb­ing” re­cently. I to­tally did not mean to do it.

It hap­pened this way: I asked Whit­ney at the cof­fee shop whether her al­most-2-yearold daugh­ter had started barista-ing yet. (The hy­phen was in there, in my head.) Whit­ney said, “She says, ‘Cof­fee!’” A barista is a per­son who serves cof­fee cre­ations to peo­ple. It’s a noun and has been in use only since the 1980s. I was kid­ding around when I turned it into a verb.

Many, many words can be used as a noun and as a verb: an­swer, dis­like, hope, lift, ques­tion, snack, walk, yawn.

Many nouns are used as verbs when they shouldn’t be. My least fa­vorite is, and al­ways will, be “im­pact.” Oth­ers of­ten come up in the work­place: “ac­tion­ing,” “task­ing,” “green-light­ing,” “con­fer­enc­ing,” “tran­si­tion­ing.”

Most of those give me the willies. Many of them are used as a way to shorten an ex­pres­sion. Nor­mally, I love short­en­ing phrases, but not when they sound stilted:

When will we be ac­tion­ing the rest of the items on the agenda?

Who will be tasked with ar­rang­ing the con­fer­enc­ing so we can get green-lighted?

We need some­thing to in­cen­tivize the troops.

Not all are busi­ness terms:

He tried guilt­ing me into giv­ing him the last slice of pie. Ha!

Theodore M. Bern­stein, in The Care­ful Writer, said he feared the day when peo­ple would “el­e­va­tor them­selves to their pent­houses, get din­ner-jack­eted and go the­ater­ing.”

So­cial me­dia have brought us “friend” and “text” as verbs:

I tried to friend her, but I have heard noth­ing for a year. If she ac­cepts now, I will un­friend her.

I’ll text you as I get closer to the restau­rant. Some of those us­ages will be­come so ac­cepted that they will end up in the dic­tio­nary. Mer­riam-Web­ster al­ready has added “google,” the name of a search en­gine, as a verb.

Bill Wat­ter­son’s car­toon-strip friends Calvin and Hobbes once weighed in on the topic: Calvin: I like to verb words.

Hobbes: What?

Calvin: I take nouns and ad­jec­tives and use them as verbs. Re­mem­ber when “ac­cess” was a

thing? Now it’s some­thing you do. It got verbed. … Verb­ing weirds lan­guage.

Hobbes: Maybe we can even­tu­ally make lan­guage a com­plete im­ped­i­ment to un­der­stand­ing.


A few read­ers re­minded

me re­cently of re­dun­dant phrases they com­monly hear.

“Re­vert back” uses two words when one is fine. Use just “re­vert.”

“Each and ev­ery.” You can use each or ev­ery. No need to use both.

“Packed full.”

The theater was packed full of Wolver­ine fans.

“Packed” is “full,” and “full” is “packed.” Choose one.


Quis­ling, to me, sounds like a young bird.

In fact, a quis­ling is a traitor or col­lab­o­ra­tor. The word is an eponym, mean­ing it orig­i­nated from a per­son’s name.

Vid­kun Quis­ling was a Nor­we­gian politi­cian who col­lab­o­rated with the Nazis dur­ing the 1940s.

It’s pro­nounced “kwi­z­ling,” with the ac­cent on the first syl­la­ble.

I have to won­der whether Vid­kun’s heirs have changed their sur­names.

Sources: en­chant­edlearn­ing.com, mor­ein­tel­li­gentlife. com, dic­tio­nary.cam­bridge.org, about.com, m-w.com

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette/NIKKI DAWES

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