Verbification

Am I procrastinating by writing this blog?  Yes.  Do I hope that my novel will fix itself while I’m blogging?  Again, yes.

Anyway, I just read a great article over on Daily Writing Tips called The Verbing of the English Language, about the proliferation of nouns-turned-verbs.  I totally do this in my writing, and I found it interesting to look back at a lot of the other nouns that have been verbified over the decades.  Mr. Nichol at DWT gives some good examples, like pencil (as in, “I’ll pencil you in.”) and Google (“Go ahead, Google it.”).

It made me wonder why this is happening.  Nichol gives technology as the answer, but I don’t think that’s the whole story.  I think part of the reason that verbification has seen a boom in recent years is that people are getting more and more creative with language to avoid staleness.  Language should be malleable, especially for writers.  Modern authors aren’t using all of the same words as say, Henry James or Jane Austen, and rightly so.  Times have changed and so have words.

Maybe it is partially technology’s fault.  The internet has shortened attention spans, so readers need words that grab them.  Hook into them and don’t let go.  How better to do that than use language in creative, unexpected ways?  Writers want to give readers something they haven’t seen before, so they invent verbs out of nouns, play with punctuation, and create new adverbs.  And sometimes, getting your point across concisely, in active voice, requires thinking outside of the box.  Check it:

  • She used Google to search for prisons in Virginia.
  • She Googled prisons in Virginia.

Obviously, in this case, verbification has sleeked this sentence right on up.

An offshoot of verbification, I think, is claiming new meanings for words.  For instance, in one of my stories I used “warbled” to connote the sound of something wooden rolling on the floor.  Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t.  So far, the reaction from my critique partners has been mixed.  However, I love when authors use an unusual word to get across their meaning–especially when that word’s actual definition allows for a whole new perspective on the situation.  Kind of like a pun, but usually not funny.

So, do you use language creatively in your writing?  How do you feel about verbification?

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2 comments

  1. Jennifer Pickrell says:

    I pretty much turn everything I can into a verb.

    Other person: “What did you do today?”

    Me: “I funned while drive-in theatering.”

    Other: Huh?”

    Me: (eye-roll): I had fun at the drive-in. Duh.”

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