Thursday, November 10, 2011

Let's verb that

A poem has been floating around in cyberspace about the "Verbing of America" with examples of verbalized nouns. The point of the poem is to show how enigmatic our language is in selecting which nouns can be used as verbs, and if they are used as verbs, what their meaning will be. I highly suggest reading through the entire poem; an example stanza is below:

If when we change a noun to verb
To come up with our `verbing,'
Why can't I, when I'm using herbs,
Refer to it as herbing?

It is rather intriguing to think of what can or cannot be used as a verb. I can friend someone (i can even unfriend someone), but I don't think I can boyfriend or husband someone. I can Facebook someone, but I can't Twitter or MySpace someone. I can Google a word or topic, but I can't Yahoo or Bing anything. I can Netflix a movie, but I sure wouldn't Blockbuster a movie. I can DVR or Tivo a show, but I never VCRed anything when I recorded shows via a VHS tape (for that matter, I've never VHSed anything).

It's no wonder non-native English speakers get lost in our vocabulary. These examples (and so many more) show how arbitrary the process is in deciding which nouns can be functionally shifted to be used as verbs.

What other instances of verbed words can you think of?


  1. Actually, I have heard many people, way before Facebook was "THE thing", say "myspace me". Also, yes, while you don't "twitter" someone, you do "tweet".

  2. Tweeting someone, though, is based on the actual verb "tweet" in English, so that isn't anything that has been verbed. I don't believe there is a verb at all, though, for the action of telling someone to look you up on Twitter. Facebooking someone has nothing to do with actually writing to them--usually it involves finding their profile or friending them. Is there a verb like that for Twitter? Tweeting, as far as I use it, solely means to post on Twitter. It has nothing to do with finding other members. And I'd never heard 'myspace' as a verb--thanks for alerting me to that!