Two readers wonder about the practice of using nouns as if they were verbs.
Nanerl wonders if journaled is acceptable.
My colleagues, at a reputable academic institution, all use the word “action” as a verb, such as: “we must action these items” and “before these items can be actioned.” This drives me crazy because I’m sure ‘action’ does not have a verb connotation, but the word is used so frequently with this connotation that I am no longer sure.
I’d guess that we all have our lists of “verbed” nouns we hate to hear or read. We may not, however, all agree as to which are abominations and which are not.
Some examples from the web:
1. Clause said all three girls were initially conscious at the scene. Swanson and Zeien were flighted to the Milwaukee Area Medical Complex. (An arrow may be flighted with feathers, but injured people in a helicopter are being flown to a hospital.)
2. How many People Were Impacted? and How Severely? (What’s wrong with affected?)
3. Federalist Papers Authored by Alexander Hamilton (Hamilton was the author. He wrote the document.)
The capacity of English for turning nouns into verbs is both its glory and its bane.
This line from Richard II shows how Shakespeare managed to “verb” even such a noun as uncle:
Henry IV: My gracious uncle—
Edmund of Langley: Tut, tut! Grace me no grace, nor uncle me no uncle: I am no traitor’s uncle;
As long ago as 1870 Henry Alford noted that the tendency to use nouns as verbs is so much a part of the nature of English speakers that it’s futile to rail against it:
I do not see that we can object to this tendency in general, seeing that it has grown with the growth of our language, and under due regulation is one of the most obvious means of enriching it. Verbs thus formed will carry themselves into use, in spite of the protests of the purists. —The Queen’s English.
In Alford’s day people were objecting to the use of experience as a verb.
As for journaled and actioned, I think the first is possibly OK while the second is abominable.
Sometimes a “verbed” noun fills a void, but too often it is the lazy expedient of a thoughtless writer.
The best course of action I can suggest is to take the trouble to consider appropriate verbs that already exist before taking a noun that has not previously been used as anything but a noun and turning it into a verb.
In deciding whether or not to use one of these fairly recent coinages, consider your own sense of aesthetics. If you feel that the word is ugly, don’t encourage the spread of it by using it.
What can we call this tendency to use nouns as if they were verbs?
How about anthimeria? Then we can anthimeria this term and warn people against anthimeriaing nouns!
In rhetoric, anthimeria, traditionally and more properly called antimeria (from the Greek: ἀντί, antí, “against, opposite” and μέρος, méros, “part”), is the use of a word as if it were a member of a different word class (part of speech); typically, the use of a noun as if it were a verb.
Here are some rants and observations you may enjoy:
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