Tag Archives: verbification

Verbification: A Special Olympics Edition


(Or is it medalled?)

medalsAs in “The swimming star has medaled in three events so far.”

Because saying “The swimming star has won three medals so far” is apparently insufficiently descriptive for the “professional” communicators and the very amateurish analysts sitting alongside them who are broadcasting this year’s Olympic games.

The Curmudgeon has shared his dismay about verbification – the act of turning a noun into a verb – on a number of occasions (here, here, here, and here). Despite the passion with which he expresses his objection to these transgressions, they nevertheless continue.

So he will, too.



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 philly.com 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.


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 philly.com 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.


“Verbification,” for those of you not hip to the latest in lingo, is the process of taking a word, typically a noun, and turning it into a verb.  Don’t believe The Curmudgeon?  Google it and see for yourself.

The very phrase “google it” is a verbification.  Back in the last century, if we wanted to find, say, a recipe for pumpkin mousse – one of The Curmudgeon’s culinary specialties, by the way – we would say that “I’ll do a Google search for a recipe for pumpkin mousse.”  Now, we say we’ll just “google” pumpkin mousse.  We’ve turned a noun – Google – into a verb, and in the process, we also stripped it of its right to a capital letter at its beginning.  “Google” is a company name and definitely is subject to capitalization; google the verb, however, is not.

In general, The Curmudgeon deplores this growing tendency toward verbification.  In fact, at one point he thought very briefly that he had coined the term itself (and “verbification” is itself a variation on verbification, but in this case a real noun turned into a non-existent noun), but a quick Google search, in which he googled “verbification,” proved that he was sadly mistaken.  (“Your search had 2,134, 865 hits in 0.3 seconds.”)

So we have all had to learn to live with verbification.  Chefs, for example, no longer move food from pots and pans onto plates; instead, they plate their food.  We no longer RSVP; we say we “RSVPed.”  We no longer send text messages; we text someone.  (The Curmudgeon, however, neither sends text messages nor texts.)

After a while it all seems so very routine, but once in a while we come upon a new instance of this abysmal practice, and The Curmudgeon came upon one such example recently.  In a March 26 article about a reality show contestant injured while doing one of the many silly things that reality show contestants do, the Philadelphia Daily News reported that this contestant was treated by on-site medical staff and “was later choppered to a nearby hospital…”

That’s right:  he was choppered.  He wasn’t transported by helicopter.  He wasn’t transported by copter.  He wasn’t even Med-Evaced or medvaced (more perversions of the English language).  He was transported by chopper.