Mary Branscombe (marypcb) wrote,
Mary Branscombe

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Grammar police citation #5: nouning verbs

We've got quite used to the (predominantly) American habit of verbing nouns: I'll architect that, you'll leverage this, we'll make enough money to summer in the Hamptons if we can surface the advantages quickly. You can source your own examples and action them. Last year the BBC used medal as a verb in coverage of the Olympics ('that's not a good enough performance to medal'). I suspect we all do it now: you google for this, I'll blog that.

This year I've been finding nouned verbs more annoying. Customers don't make requests, they have a 'key ask'. And now Waitrose is at it. The instructions on the Emperor's Sticky Ribs tell me to remove the lid "for a stickier eat".

Sometimes there's a good reason to weird the language, as Calvin and Hobbes put it. Strunk and White defines flammable as "an oddity, chiefly useful in saving lives. The common word meaning 'combustible' is inflammable. But some people are thrown off by the in- and think inflammable means 'not combustible.' For this reason, trucks carrying gasoline or explosives are now marked FLAMMABLE. Unless you are operating such a truck and hence are concerned with the safety of children and illiterates, use inflammable."
Tags: grammar, quotes, rant, writing

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