Thursday, December 2, 2010

Still Verbing After All These Years

As a culture I'd say Americans like action - coffee, pizza and language to go.  One example of this national characteristic:  verbing. Verbing is the act of using a noun as a verb.  Not a new phenomenon by any means, as demonstrated by the following words that were only nouns in the Concise Oxford Dictionary c. 1964, and are now verbs verbs verbs. 
Host - throw the party at your house
Access - get that info
Leverage - use your assets with all your might
Parent - actively raise those young 'uns
Transition - make that move
Our personal favorite:  geek!  From the 'Geek the Library' operation, :  "The awareness campaign introduces the word ‘geek’ as a verb and illustrates the fact that everyone is passionate about something—everyone ‘geeks’ something—and that the public library supports it all".  That is verbing with a purpose.  The public libraries not only support your interests, now we provide you with a lively new word to describe how you feel about them.  In the grand tradition of those who've kept the English language zippy!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for finally attempting to defend yourselves. Of course the problem is that since the Great Library of Alexandria up until you decided differently about a year ago, one of the primary missions of libraries has been PRESERVATION. ...Making up new words, meanings of words, usage of words, slang, etc... is generally the domain of the masses NOT the formerly well respected educational institution of biblioteka. Shame on the Des Moines Public Library system for posting this far from unanimous take on the "lets actively destroy the English language" campaign.

Anonymous said...

The English language is constantly changing and evolving, otherwise it would be a dead language like Latin. I'm not too fond myself of "verbing," but it's hardly the library's responsibility to police the language.

the deb said...

Woodrow Wilson had tried to get a whole new spelling system going- much like the texting vernacular and usage now used by so many. It failed, thank whoever needs to be thanked. On the other hand, Do we want to have our language go the way of Latin? I have been distressed at some of the usage changes of the past few years, but I find I come back to that question. And, sad as I may feel at the answer, that answer for me is a resounding "No".

We are a growing, changing, evolving society. Our words, and how we use them, is not only a representation of, but also an integral part of that society. That we are "verbing" more than ever is a reflection of that, and an organic result of it.

And, truly, it is nothing new. Not even new since 1964.

Anonymous said...

To the other Anonymous:

Get over it. Latin is the only language that I can say with certainty does not evolve over time. Maybe that is one reason why it is called (or became) a dead language.