Verbification Mortification

Few things rile The Curmudgeon like abuse of the English language, as he has written before, and among those abuses, one of the rilers-in-chief has come to be known as “verbification”:  the act of turning a noun into a verb.  (“Verbification,” of course, is itself a verbification, but sometimes, we must relent.)  He has written about verbification in the past, too.

The Curmudgeon does not approve of verbification, yet it is happening all around him and he is, he admits, powerless to stop it.

But not so powerless that he can’t point it out and kvetch a little about it.

A Washington Post article, for example, told about how the federal government is employing new techniques for organizing work space to reduce its need for office space and noted that in one location, workers must reserve a place to work every day.  As a result, some people work in different spaces from day to day.  To enable their bosses to know where they are, they swipe their badges through turnstiles in the lobby.

If only the writer had left it at “swiping badges.”  No, instead, she reported that “Employees badge in at the lobby turnstile so their bosses know where they are.“

That’s right:  they “badge in.”  Congratulations, Washington Post:  you stand accused of verbification –  turning the noun “badge” into a verb.

Has the jury reached its verdict?


Not to be outdone by the badgers of the world, the July 2013 edition of Philadelphia Magazine offered a new one in verbification.  In a restaurant review, the magazine noted that one of the chef-owners of the subject of the review also cooks at another restaurant.  But isn’t it good enough to say that he “cooks at another restaurant” or that he is “a chef at another restaurant?”  Of course not; what fun would that be?  Instead, it reported that the man “also chefs at Matyson” (the other restaurant).

That’s right:  he chefs.  He is a chef, therefore he chefs.

What’s next?  An author who auths?

Even that pillar of the proper, the New Yorker magazine, can go astray and verbify.  A June 3 article tells about the insiders’ world of people who climb Mt. Everest and how some of them behave rather badly.  The goal, in climbing Everest, is to reach the top of the mountain, also known as the summit.

But that’s not good enough.  In describing one mountain climber, the reporter auths that “he summited Everest four times.”

That’s right:  he didn’t climb to the summit.  He didn’t reach the summit.  He summited.


As The Curmudgeon has noted in the past, he sometimes frequents online dating sites.  Recently, he came upon a woman who sings professionally – not her primary job, but something she does on the side.  Many of us are familiar with the term “gig” as referring to a musical engagement, but this particular woman referred to her second job as “gigging,” as in “When I’m not gigging…”

Gigging appears to be contagious, too.  A headline, about an almost-celebrity chef whose chief claim to fame is losing not once but twice in the same television cooking contest, read “Chef Jennifer Carroll is gigging tonight.”

Chef Jennifer may be gigging but The Curmudgeon is gagging.

Another that greatly disturbs The Curmudgeon is “helmed,” a verbification of the word “helm,” which isn’t a very useful word even on its own.  It recently dawned on the senior citizens in charge of Philadelphia Magazine, for example, that most of their readers either are collecting social security or looking forward to doing so in the near future, so in a clumsy attempt to find some younger readers, it published a few articles about people who don’t need to dye their hair.  To lead this effort, it explains that “To helm our millennials package, we turned to our 26-year-old managing editor…”

Here’s hoping that 26-year-old isn’t the one who took such liberties with the language.  If she is, the future is looking exceedingly dim over at Philadelphia Magazine.

In fairness, dictionaries are now noting that helm is a verb, but that doesn’t mean one has to like it.  It’s proof, though, of the influence of the entertainment industry:  Garner’s Modern American Usage notes that “Originally a nautical term meaning ‘to steer,’ helm has been borrowed by the entertainment industry in the sense “to direct or produce (a film, play, album, etc.’).  This extended sense, now entrenched in showbiz talk, is likely to strike many readers as newfangled and catchpenny…”

That includes The Curmudgeon, and please, let’s not get him started on “catchpenny.”  This is not, after all, Elizabethan England.

In an otherwise informative New Yorker article about New York City’s efforts to shelter the homeless, the writer unveiled a new means of transportation:  “Then I subwayed up to 103rd Street…”

That’s right:  he didn’t ride the subway.  He subwayed.

And The Curmudgeon is dismayed.

Do you have any hobbies?  Is one of them the process of bringing together your memories and collecting them in bound volumes?  If so, good for you; it sounds like fun.  But please, refer to your hobby as something like “creating scrapbooks.”  The world can live without the offense to the sensibilities that is “scrapbooking.”

Thank  you.

The Curmudgeon’s day job involves writing about government health care policy, where one of the major objectives these days is trying to persuade doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers to work together efficiently instead of working separately in a manner that enables each of them to maximize how much money they can make serving their patients.  Government at all levels is working to encourage more efficient practices, and The Curmudgeon recently read that “Promising practices should be identified, incented through rate setting and shared with all MCOs.”

Now this is the subject of a little controversy.  “Incented,” like its cousin “incent,” is derived from the word “incentive.”  Check dictionaries for these cousins and you can almost feel the dictionaries’ editors rolling their eyes, shrugging their shoulders, and sighing a message of surrender to the effect of “Yes, we know, it’s utterly ridiculous and we apologize to those of you who know better, but it’s become so common that we give up.”

The Curmudgeon, alas, does not surrender so easily.

The November/December issue of the Columbia Journalism Review features a review of a book about urban design, and in a passage on the psychological impact of broken pavements and unkempt lawns, the reviewer writes that “The Danish architect Jan Gehl, studying behavior on a pedestrianized street in Copenhagen, noticed that…”

Pedestrianized?  Seriously?  People who walk on streets are pedestrians.  Streets that have people walking on them have pedestrians.  They are not – are not – are not – pedestrianized.  Yes, some dictionaries acknowledge this offense to the sensibilities.  Others don’t.  The ones that don’t are correct.  Please, people:  would it have been so hard to write that the architect was “studying behavior on a street with pedestrians…”?  No.

In Philadelphia, the city council recently created a “land bank”:  a central repository for city-owned and abandoned properties that potential buyers can turn to in pursuit of development opportunities.  The way it works in government is that the legislative body creates and the executive branch implements, so one of the members of the city council who pushed hardest for the land bank told the Philadelphia Inquirer that “Now the ball is in the administration’s court to resource and appropriately staff it.”

That’s right.  It’s not up the administration to give the new land bank the resources it needs to do its job.  It needs to “resource” it.

Please past the Pepto.

It is worth noting, by the way, that Microsoft Word’s spell check function rejected almost all of the words used above that The Curmudgeon, too, rejects.

Now, a brief phrase The Curmudgeon thought he’d never, ever write:  “Yay, Microsoft!”

Don’t like these observations?  Think The Curmudgeon is being too damn stuffy and rigid about adopting new forms of old words?  By all means, feel free to send him a message.

But please – please – don’t message him.

And do not text him.

And certainly, definitely, do not “in-box” him.

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