Turning Nouns into Verbs

There is absolutely no doubt that language develops and changes. Some new uses for words and even the creation of brand new words is inevitable in the fast-moving world in which we live. Let’s face it, many of the words and phrases we use in connection with technology today would mean nothing to our grandparents or in some cases even to our parents.

The habit that annoys me though is the increasing tendency to turn nouns into verbs. Of course it is easier to say someone was “Helicoptered off a mountain” but they weren’t: they were “Flown off a mountain by helicopter”. It is only two more words to express it correctly and trying to make the name of an aircraft into a verb is just lazy and ugly. When someone asks how you travelled on your holiday do you say: “I was aeroplaned out of Heathrow”? Of course you don’t. You say “I flew out of Heathrow”. (It is an indication of how common place these non-verbs have become when my Google Chrome spell-checker underlines aeroplaned as a spelling mistake but not helicoptered!)

When a footballer commits a second bookable offence in a match I regularly hear the commentator announce that the player is about to be ‘red carded’. There is no such verb as ‘to card’ (although sadly golfers seem to think they may ‘card a four at this hole’) and certainly not one ‘to red-card’. To make matters worse, the player he injured in the tackle is then inevitably ‘stretchered off the pitch’!

When I first heard that someone was thinking of ‘texting’ someone else, I thought that invented verb was so horrendously ugly it would never catch on (thankfully Google Chrome still underlines it!) Sadly I think it is only a matter of time before the august Oxford English Dictionary enhances its current entry to include the word ‘text’ as a verb if it hasn’t already done so.

The above examples may not irritate any of you reading this (if anyone reads this of course!) but surely anyone with any feeling for the English Language winced when Olympic athletes spoked of being “medalled” or hoping “to podium” in a particular event.

3 thoughts on “Turning Nouns into Verbs

  1. I broadly agree with you. English is a very rich language and we ought to take the time and trouble to write it well. I would just say that it has become such a rich language by constantly evolving. Is it really such a crime to write ‘stretchered off’ or ‘to text’, especially the sending of SMSs is a relatively new thing. Like it not, Americans also speak our langauge and they are going to continue to adapt it. I also think that, like dressing up / down, there is an argument for being able to write casually in texts, personal emails and on Facebook, but more ‘correctly’ and formally when writing letters, business / professional emails, in teaching, and any kind of advertisements or communications for a larger audience. The problem is that some people aren’t able to adapt.

  2. Interesting – I’m sure that the Archbishop has good intentions and it will be a start if the Church of England stops investing in companies like Wonga. A big departure from Church thinking on this issue; didn’t Jesus physically scatter the money lenders from the temple in Matthew – not set up in competition with them? In fact I’m sure that the Church forbade people from lending money for profit. Jews, on the other hand, were barred from some professions so they became money lenders often acting as middle-men to mask the true source of the funds. Not good for early community relations if Christians owe a lot of money to Jews. Presumably if there is a pogrom a lot of debt gets wiped off. If Wonga is forced out of business, is the Church going to pick up all of this fairly toxic debt, either directly or indirectly? If not, and Wonga and similar companies (that are at least regulated) are forced out of business, it may force people into the clutches of illegal loan sharks. For someone who is desparate enough to go to Wonga, an APR of 40 % is still fairly usurious. And to what lengths is the Church prepared to go in order to enforce these loans? If they are not going to be quite tough how will they protect themselves from being exploited? I suspect this is just political lobbying on the part the new Archbishop – in the end they might be better advised to invest their money in charity and community work, which is less fraught with pitfalls, and an area which they excel at because they have great experience and because it is much easier to mobilise the congregation for a soup kitchen than it is for a money lending operation.

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