November 10, 2008

Verbing nouns


Screen grab [and H/T]: the most excellent swissmiss.

Whattaya mean, I can't use hemorrhage as a verb? Oh, sorry — haemorrhage. Too bad I didn't read the section on Americanisms before I took the quiz. You can test your language chops at The Economist's style guide for journalists, where gerunds get the respect they deserve and commas know their place. A sample:
In general, be concise.Try to be economical in your account or argument (“The best way to be boring is to leave nothing out”—Voltaire). Similarly, try to be economical with words. “As a general rule, run your pen through every other word you have written; you have no idea what vigour it will give to your style.” (Sydney Smith) Raymond Mortimer put it even more crisply when commenting about Susan Sontag: “Her journalism, like a diamond, will sparkle more if it is cut.”
In other writing-about-language news: Barbara Wallraff has a fine new blog over at the Atlantic — check it out. [And for the record, Merriam-Webster says hemorrhage is a noun and a verb. *iz smug*]

7 comments:

kabbage said...

One verbing noun that drives me insane is "architect", as in "We're architecting a solution to the problem". Fingernails on a chalkboard with people in the background squeaking balloons and rubbing blocks of styrofoam together.

Luisa said...

Fingernails on a chalkboard with people in the background squeaking balloons and rubbing blocks of styrofoam together. Exactly.

The verbing noun [nerb?] that makes me cringe is impact, as in "Budget cuts will impact schools" [shudders]. Please, people, think of the children.

C Landauer said...

"Put adverbs where you would put them in normal speech, which is usually after the verb (not before it, which usually is where Americans put them)."


Editors fail their own style guide in the very explanation of the rule they failed. Oh the irony.

Bill Fosher said...

"Verbing weirds language." -- Calvin, of Calvin and Hobbes.

I have to admit to being cut off enough from reality to have never heard "architect" used as a verb. Thanks. Now my hair will hurt all day.

I used to prefer the AP Stylebook to the UPI Stylebook. They were identical in almost every respect, except that the UPI Stylebook carried the following entry -- this is from memory, so it may be slightly incorrect.

burro, burrow: one is an ass, the other is a hole in the ground. A good journalist can be expected to know the difference.

Bill Fosher said...

And another thing: dictionaries have become mere repositories of the way things are used, right or wrong, rather than the barricades from which the defenders of correct usage can seek safety from the unwashed mob. If enough people use "architect" as a verb and it starts getting published elsewhere, eventually it will turn up in a dictionary. The American Heritage will be first, followed shortly by one of the various Merriam-Webster products.

The scales were lifted from my eyes in college, when a new edition of the M-W Collegiate came out that included "now" as a synonym for "presently."

Luisa said...

Re adverb placement: the writers of the style guide actually use their explanations as examples, which is actually pretty clever. [And that reminds me of Thurber's "the building is pretty ugly and a little big for its surroundings"].

Luisa said...

A verbing hat trick!

"It was a collaborative effort there in deciding how do we start bringing up some of the associations that perhaps would be impacting on an administration, on the future of America. But again, though, Wolf, knowing that it really -- at this point, I don't want to point fingers backwards and play the blame game, certainly, on anything that took place in terms of strategy or messaging in the campaign.

Now is the time to move forward together, start progressing America."
Link: HuffPost. Yes, she used progress as a transitive verb.