Still More Verbification Transgressions

It’s been a while, but The Curmudgeon has lost none of his enthusiasm for spotting verbification:  the practice of turning a noun into a verb. He collects them like a six-year-old collected Yu-Gi-Oh cards back in 2001, and occasionally, he shares them with you. (For past ruminations about verbifications, go here and here. For other observations about how we abuse our language, go here.)

A article on holiday tipping, for example, advised readers that one of the myths of holiday tipping is that “Teacher is the Only Person You Should Gift at Your Child’s School.”

You “gift” someone? Since when – and why didn’t anyone tell The Curmudgeon?

Imagine someone strutting around like a swan. That’s what some hapless writer did in the magazine American Prospect. Writing about the new kind of liberal politicians represented by New York City mayor Bill deBlasio, he described that city as a place where “…nearly half the residents live in or near poverty while the super-rich swan as never before.”

That’s right: they’re like swans, therefore they…swan.

The horror!

Another horror: a radio advertisement that told listeners they could have their car “valeted” at curbside.


A hockey player sustained a serious injury during a game – so serious that he had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher. But could the reporter on the Comcast Philadelphia Sportsnet web site write just that? Of course not: he had to report that the player “received immediate medical attention before being stretchered off the ice.”

Yes, he was stretchered off the ice. Does that mean he became taller after the stretchering?

We’ve all seen blurbs. They’re the little comments, usually just phrases of praises, in newspaper ads for movies or books. Blurbs typically are extracted from reviews, although in the book world, writers ask their writer friends to write blurbs for their new books. So it apparently was at some time in the past, according to a review of a new collection of the letters of liberal historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. The reviewer, trying to note that Schlesinger could at times be small-minded and petty, noted tension between the liberal Schlesinger and nasty conservative William F. Buckley. Apparently, at some point Buckley asked Schlesinger to write a blurb for his new book and Schlesinger declined – or, as the reviewer insisted on describing it, “When Buckley asked Schlesinger to blurb one of his novels, Schlesinger clumsily refuses.”

Well, The Curmudgeon would refuse, too, if someone asked him to blurb. Contribute a blurb? Of course. But blurb? No – on principle. To be fair, a few dictionaries acknowledge, almost grudgingly, that blurb can be a verb.

Needless to say, they are wrong.

The Curmudgeon doesn’t know much about guns, but apparently there’s more than one place to put the bullets: there’s the clip and there’s the chamber. Recently, has-been Jon Gosselin was showing his gun to a magazine reporter and explained that he can put “Nine rounds in the clip and one in the chamber. But I don’t chamber a bullet when I carry it.”

That’s right: he doesn’t not put a bullet in the chamber. He just doesn’t chamber the bullet.


“Bond” can be a verb – as in “They bonded over the long weekend together.” Bond is not a verb, however, when referring to the process of getting out of jail after charges have been filed. So when The Curmudgeon was in bed one night, in the dark, listening to the radio and hoping to fall asleep and he heard the news reporter explain that a suspect in a criminal case had bonded out of prison after charges had been filed, he declared – aloud, oddly enough – “Oh no” and had to start the process of trying to fall asleep, never an easy one for him, all over again.

We’ve all seen it: the host of a television talk show comes onto the stage and launches his show by delivering his monologue. Or maybe he does his monologue, or performs his monologue. You wouldn’t think to suggest that he was “monologuing,” an abomination used in a New York Times magazine article about preparations for the winter Olympics in which the reader is told that a Russian official “did not wait for a question but launched into a pre-emptive defense of the games, monologuing for fifteen minutes…”

Dialogue about that, readers!

Government sometimes takes property from its owners through a legal process known as “eminent domain,” asserting that the public good is more important than private interest. It’s seldom used and almost always controversial, but without it, many important public projects never would have gotten off the drawing board. SEPTA, the regional public transportation entity serving the five-county Philadelphia area, is proposing to create a new rail line linking the city with one of the largest shopping and employment areas in the region. It’s a complex undertaking, terrifyingly expensive, and there are numerous ways to go about it. One of the challenges is obtaining the right to cross various privately and publicly owned properties. One way to get that right is to exercise eminent domain, as a reader of a Philadelphia Inquirer online report noted.

Only that reader couldn’t just say “exercise the right of eminent domain,” or something like that. No, why do that when you can make up your own word? Or so this person wrote: “The pre-septa owner of the line, Red Arrow Lines, tried to buy the right of way that is now US 202. They were blocked by PennDOT, who eminent domained it to use for 202.”

You read it right: someone “eminent domained” a property.

On the television Food Network not too long ago, one of the nitwits who won the network’s “next star” contest but really has nothing to offer and has been wedged into programming during hours when few people are watching was talking about an unappetizing variation of the classic pig-in-a-blanket he had just finished preparing. The final product was a bit unwieldy and he was trying to say that you also could eat it with a knife and fork, but apparently the kitchen fumes had gotten to him and he explained that “You could knife and fork this.”

Fork this? Fork him!

The leftist magazine The American Prospect had a fascinating article about a progressive group that’s doing more than making noise about issues: it’s doing the hard, dirty work needed to get genuine liberals – The Curmudgeon dislikes the word “progressives” – elected to office. As the article ends, the guiding force behind the organization is trying to make that very point and noted how quickly the tea party managed to put people into office. Getting something done, he emphasizes, requires getting people elected: turning passion into votes.

If only he could have left it at that. No, he went on to note that “But the Tea Party understood that you disrupt and then you electoralize.”

Electoralize THAT, boys and girls! Electoralize!

You hear it a lot during the Olympics. Instead of hoping to “win medals,” athletes aspire “to medal.”

In a recent television advertisement, Verizon is trying to make the point that it does a lot of research so its new products and services will meet its customers’ needs. In fact, it conducts focus groups on those products and services. But that’s not how the ad put it: no, in the ad, they “focused grouped” the services.

Those wooden platforms onto which products are loaded and strapped for shipping are called pallets, but when The Curmudgeon read about some product shipping recently, the article explained that the goods were “palleted.”

When Hurricane Sandy knocked out power for millions of people – including The Curmudgeon, for two long days and nights – many people wondered why utilities didn’t run more of their power wires underground. Ice storms in the Philadelphia area last winter renewed these questions. There are two obstacles to doing so, published reports explained: first, it costs a lot of money, and second, as residents of Manhattan learned during Hurricane Sandy, underground wires are by no means invulnerable.

Unfortunately, the chairman of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, with a reporter’s notebook thrust in his face, couldn’t resist elaborating.

“Undergrounding sounds great until you start looking at a million dollars a mile for cable, and trenches through everyone’s yard; then people think differently.”

Yes, he spoke of “undergrounding.” Look that one up in your Funk & Wagnalls.

In Philadelphia, a broken-down house in a broken-down neighborhood was to be torn down and for some reason residents of the community decided to stage a funeral – for the house. A ridiculous idea, perhaps, but what was really ridiculous was the observation of a local reverend that “To funeralize a house, this is something new.”


Loyal reader Miss Kate shared with The Curmudgeon a news headline she encountered that declared “GOP Operatives Fundraise to Oust House Republican.” Like The Curmudgeon, Miss Kate objects to creating the verb “fundraise” out of the word “fundraising” or, as The Curmudgeon prefers it, “fund-raising.”

When you’re trying to figure out something, especially if it involves numbers or money, it’s often helpful to put it in writing. Depending on your preference, you may use a pencil. But The Curmudgeon’s jaw dropped recently when he read an article in Money magazine about a couple trying to figure out if they could afford a new home that said it looked as if they could “But they’d like to be sure it all pencils out.”

Now The Curmudgeon has a pretty good imagination, and while he tries not to verbify his nouns he usually understands how such things happen, but never in his wildest imagination would he consider this particular one. He can imagine penciling something into your schedule or a carpenter penciling a line before sawing or even a woman penciling in her eyebrows – he doesn’t like those things but he certainly can imagine them – but the idea of sitting down and figuring out whether he can afford something to ensure that “it all pencils out” would never, ever occur to him.

And finally (for this edition; there will be more), we come to something that’s not actually a verbification: it’s a nounification of another noun. It’s part of a song, and The Curmudgeon’s opinion is that readers will know it when they hear it, so look here.


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