This is a guest post by Jeannine Sohayda. If you want to write for Daily Writing Tips check the guidelines here.
I was disappointed yesterday when, while cruising Facebook, I noticed a national pharmacy company’s request for me to “fan” them. I simply cannot agree to become a fan of a company that thinks turning nouns into verbs is hip and thereby will increase its customer base. If they had instead asked me to “become a fan”, I may have indeed considered it, because I do shop there often.
I’m no stranger to nouns becoming verbs; we’ve all “Googled” for information. I must admit, it was refreshing to see that Twitter asks its users simply to “follow” other users on its site. I suppose “Twitter me” would make no sense.
However, the word “fan” is already both a noun and a verb, and to see it used in this way was particularly jolting. By the way, even the word “verb” is a noun.
I often wonder what it must be like for people who are just learning English. While they are trying to find words and phrases to get them through their days in English, we are simultaneously butchering and deconstructing our own language, making it difficult even for native speakers to understand each other. If we were to think about it in reverse, about the difficulties of learning Chinese, for example, as Americans we would be infuriated at the idea of their randomly adding new words as we page in vain through our phrase book.
If we want people to speak, write and, in general, communicate understandably in English, I’d like to suggest that we set a good example and use the language as it was intended: as a means to illuminate rather than obfuscate.
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40 Responses to ““Verbing” Nouns”
I am and ESOL teacher and it is not difficult to teach students the form of the gerund if it is explained correctly. The gerund has been around for a long time, and in many countries, such as in Ireland it is used proliffically. I don’t find the gerund a difficult form of language at all and use it consistently when writing.
shirley in berkeley
Sandra, standard American usage is to put punctuation inside a closing quotation mark unless it is a colon or semicolon, or a question mark or exclamation point that is not part of the quotation. My English friends get very starchy about this and insist that periods ALWAYS go OUTSIDE a closing quotation mark.
“Always” and “Never” are very strong words. As we all know, the word “judgment” is “judgement” in books printed in England because that’s proper British English spelling. If we follow what’s considered correct usage on our respective sides of “The Pond,” as we call it, or “The Pond”, as they call it, we’ll be just fine.
Nouns should not be used as verbs because that causes a misperception in the brain, along with behavioral and conceptual missteps.
I just noticed an error in my own response. I should have used single quote marks inside the quoted sentence. I’ll blame it on copying and pasting.
If you want to be a grammar/mechanics resource, you should know that commas and periods ALWAYS go INSIDE quote marks! When I saw the following sentence, I had to stop reading: “If they had instead asked me to “become a fan”, I may have indeed considered it, because I do shop there often.” I cannot take seriously anyone proposing to “know” grammar/mechanics when they place a comma outside the quote mark, essentially leaving that poor comma all alone, just hanging there. Furthermore, when a dependent clause comes at the end of a sentence, a comma should NOT be used, meaning TAKE THE COMMA OUT BETWEEN “it” and “because.” Notice how my period is tucked safely between the last letter of the word and the big old quote mark at the end of the sentence. Here’s how it would look otherwise: … TAKE THE COMMA OUT BETWEEN “it” and “because”. Now you see the period is floating between my sentences, looking like it has no home, no attachment, no protection.
I can’t open the e-book. I tried opening and I tried saving and then opening the zip file but it is encrypted.
I am not fond of the butchering of our nouns either (with the possible exception of when it really is the best choice, google).
When I used to edit all of my director’s correspondence as part of my job (for a design firm), she insisted in everything she wrote to attempt to use concept in verb form, believing she was going to start a trend, I think (concepted, concepting). I of course insisted that we already have a word for that, conceptualize, so, leave the noun alone. I believe it’s important in maintaining the language’s integrity, though I comprehend linguistic description vs prescription.
I certainly hope no one else misinterpreted my remarks as you did, especially not guest author Jeannine Sohayda whose well-written article has given us all so much food for discussion.
I was not criticizing the use of page as a verb. I thought I was pointing out to readers that some verbed nouns blend in so well that no one notices them or is offended by them.
Your comment reminds me that one can never know what will offend somebody.
Still, it was kind of you to want to stand up for the guest author.
Proper English? Or is what you’re meaning to say ‘standard English’? There are ‘proper’ forms of all dialects of English (and any language), though when you say that there is a form that can be understood by all speakers of the language, the standard form is what fits the bill. This does not imply that other forms or dialects of the tongue are incorrect, per se, but it certainly makes them non-standard.
There is a time and place for “proper” English – with little jargon, few recently coined terms, and as correct a grammar as possible.
Most casual communications don’t adhere that closely to proper English. What we look for are the disconnects, the overlooked “you know what I mean” slips and contrivances, so that when we do intend the clearest, most respectful communication we can make a very good showing.
Whether English evolves or not in casual usage, the bleed over into proper English is much more glacial. If we don’t keep the distinctions in mind, it can be jarring to venture into proper English unawares.
I expect there is an element of pride in mastering proper English. Proper English is a dialect that is more widely accepted and understood that most dialects of English. Proper English is not the only way to communicate well, just the best for wide dissemination and clearest communication to the widest audience. If a listener encounters something unexpected on hearing proper English, there are many resources to resolve any doubt. That isn’t so for hip slang, for many causal usages.
In some instances, proper English is an expression of respect for a venue, and for the time and attention of your audience. It takes thought and energy, a clear intent, to communicate in proper English.