Judy Muller Annoyed About Nouns as Verbs

ByJudy Muller

March 16, 2001 -- Buckminster Fuller once said, "God is a verb."

He did not mean that literally, of course, but metaphorically. I think he was trying to say that love is action. He did NOT go on to use that noun as an actual verb, as in "I God you." That would have been annoying. Supremely annoying, you might say.

And supremely annoyed is just how I feel about an increasing public acceptance of the practice of turning nouns into verbs. Perhaps it's my brief career as a high school English teacher that makes me so persnickety about this particular mutilation of the language. Persnickety is not an endearing quality, I know.

Cringing About Efforting

But I can't help it — I cringe when I hear someone say "We're efforting that." I took the effort to look it up and yes, there it was in the dictionary — still a noun, just like the good old days. Impact is another one — as in, "his behavior is impacting everyone in the office." One dictionary describes this use of impact as "common usage," which is just another way of saying that impact as a verb has gained access to a germ of respectability.

Notice I used the phrase GAINED ACCESS. I did not say "the verb accessed respectability," as in the horrible but all-too-common phrase " we are accessing your account." And while we're talking business, what illiterate ad agency ever dreamed up the slogan "the smarter way to office?"

Suddenly it's everywhere, this faux verb "to office." How do you conjugate that, exactly? I office, you office, we office? And is that the same thing as "multitask?" This word is unappealing, even as a noun. But used as a verb — as in, "she is multitasking today" — it's downright ugly.

Are You Journaling?

Once you become aware of this trend, you start hearing examples all over the place. Overheard at a Weightwatchers' meeting: "You need to keep track of calories, so be sure you're journaling everyday." Apparently the phrase "writing in your journal" is a little too weighty. Overheard at a town council meeting: "We hope to liase with the police department on a regular basis."

Overheard in a conversation among teenagers: "My mom is trying to guilt me into it." And at an education conference, of all places, "We need to dialogue on that issue." Not that the news business is immune. When we talk about transcribing interviews verbatim, or word for word, we talk about verbating them.

For the record, verbate is not a verb. It's not even a noun. But if you wanted to INVENT a word to describe this onerous trend of rendering nouns into verbs, "verbate" would do quite nicely.

I realize this persnickety rant is not likely to change a thing. But I figured it couldn't hurt to ONPASS my displeasure.