Friday, March 18, 2016

Do You Even Language, Bro? Understanding Why Nouns Become Verbs


Ah, the topsy-turvy world of language innovation, where the lion lies down with the lamb, nouns suddenly become verbs, and “verbing weirds language.” Consider popular internet memes like “Let me librarian that for you” and “Do you even science, bro?” in which “librarian” and “science” are nouns weirdly disguised as verbs. So is this a playful new linguistic construction or is it time to roll our eyes at the internet, again?
The dicey practice of turning a noun into a verb has long been a square on the language pedant’s bingo game. Take examples like dialoguing, actioning, efforting, or transiting. (No really, please take them away.) It’s easy to see why these awkward constructions might elicit, as Fowler put it, “cries of anguish.” Why use these nouns as verbs at all when there are already perfectly good verbs like talk, act, etc. that mean the same thing? Is the jargon-riddled business world impacting (first used as a verb c. 1600) how we speak now? Can we just boycott (thanks, Captain Charles Boycott) them and Houdini our way out of this mess?

No comments: