Nouns as Verbs

July 8, 2010 at 5:30 am (Replay) (, , , , , , , , , )


I’m on holidays at the moment but I’m reposting some of the more popular posts from my old blog, Darkened Jade. If you leave a comment I’ll be sure to catch up with you when I get back.

This is a post for the language nut hiding deep inside all of us.

Recently (and not so recently) it seems that every noun is up for grabs. You no longer hit people with a glass, you “glass” them. You don’t search on the Internet using Google, you “Google” something. On and on the list goes of nouns that have been shoved (somewhat forcefully at times) into the position of a verb. You could wonder where this will end up. Will we be telling our kids to “tie their laces” in the future, or will we say “hurry up and lace”. This might sound ridiculous but let’s explore the idea of telling someone to “shoe” themselves. We already “shoe” horses, so why not.

This argument highlights the dynamic nature of the English language and its marvellous ability to be reinterpreted and re-imagined. The only problem is, it is being re-imagined inconsistently, and frequently by people who didn’t understand the original rules to begin with.

I find my biggest problem with this, is that people insist on using ‘hybrid’ forms of ‘new’ English in formal documents and it doesn’t belong. A formal report or essay has to be written in whatever the current standard is in order for it to meet the requirements for that genre, and to be understood by whomever the intended reader may be. Admittedly, many of these terms have already become a standard, in many ways, but the speed at which new language is introduced is at times overwhelming.

I opened the discussion on Twitter for those who had an opinion and admittedly responses were few and far between. The one’s I did receive were as follows:

I guess, as with all language choices, writers need to consider the following:

  1. Who is your intended audience and what will the accept?
  2. What is your intended purpose and what language will help you achieve it?

And here’s the link if you haven’t yet checked out the blurb or excerpt for Death’s Daughter.

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5 Comments

  1. Smander said,

    I say bring on changes the the English language! Changes occur because there is usually a need for them. We find silly unconventional ways to mess with the rules because in doing so we find a quicker or better was to express ourselves. I don’t think it means we are destroying something or doing something wrong if we are pushing boundaries and ignoring the standards! For example, I think the word “youse” as in the third person plural (“you” or “You collectively”) is perfectly acceptable. It sounds terrible but it makes up for a small problem we have in our language. A problem many other languages, like French for example dont have (because they have vous and tu to distinguish).

  2. Alex Willging said,

    I’m always fascinated about the way the English language changes in the modern day, especially since I try to write dialogue to match. Of course, I’m still very concerned about proper grammar and things like that, but overall, I think good dialogue needs a natural rhythm. At the moment, it’s an important concept for me because I’m jotting down ideas for a high fantasy story set in a medieval era. It raises questions about just how the language should be presented–like whether I need to use “thou” or “thy” at all.

  3. AlexJ said,

    Certainly the younger the audience, the more new words need to be used. But as for professional and business documents, they need to conform to standards. Can you imagine placing an “LOL” in the middle of a letter to a company president?

  4. Juliet Boyd said,

    The trouble with formal written language these days is that everybody is doing it.

    What do I mean by that?

    Well, everyone has a computer and types up their own stuff. Not being professionally trained means many errors of spelling, punctuation and grammar are not even thought about (and not considered important). I wince at some of the things I see sent out as professional business letters these days, but what can you do? You can’t stop advances in technology.

  5. Casey Lybrand said,

    I agree with your Twitter responder about phoning and googling. That one tracks for me. Plus, I interact with so many people who google, I *feel* that it’s a verb already.

    Because my WIP is set in a secondary world, I try to be very careful about how I use language. I’m pretty sure I’m not verbing my nouns, but I will pay extra attention when it’s time to edit. Though my secondary world doesn’t even have Google, so I’m safe on that one!

    Thank you for this interesting post.

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