What's that? Verbing is the act of turning a noun or an adjective into a verb.

What's that?Verbing is the act of turning a noun or an adjective into a verb.

But surely that would be "verbising" or "verbifying"?

Yes, but verbing encapsulates it really, doesn't it? I mean, if you're going to go around turning every word into a verb, then why not go all the way? Can't argue with that - it logics perfectly.

Noun transmutation has been around for quite a while - Shakespeare did it in Hamlet, and Gilbert and Sullivan did it in The Pirates of Penzance - and noun-to-verb conversions are common in English, with such common verbifications as access, switch, mail, chair and divorce. But the rise of office jargon has seen an increase in the incidence of unnecessary verbing - you know, "action" something instead of "take action". Sadly, verbing has virused over the past few years, and now everybody is doing it.


Who are the worst offenders?

The Americans, always notorious for their ignoration of proper English usage, have gone verbo-crazy, turning nouns into verbs and vice-versa. In the US, it's open season on nouns and adjectives, and, for most Americans, it's as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.

Blame George W Bush, who has been fighting a war on grammar and syntax since he arrived in office, but the spread of verbing has epidemicked alarmingly.


The letters pages of the London Times recently featured some wry observations from visitors to the US.

One writer who went on a tour of New York's Harlem district was shown the place where Adam C Powell was "funeralised". Another letter detailed an American friend's eagerness to see the Prince of Wales "coronated". On a flight to Boston, flight attendants promised passengers they would soon "beverage", but later, because of adverse weather conditions, they said they were "unable to complete beverisation". Asked about this trend, one American quipped: "Any noun can be verbed."

But we don't have to follow suit on this side of the pond, do we?

It's creeping in, whether we like it or not. Emergency exits are "alarmed", politicians are urged to "sex up" their policy documents, and pub-goers regularly come out with the simple request, "beer me".

And presumably you googled a lot for this piece?

Language is always on the move, and many believe verbing is a way of keeping up with the fast-changing world of technology, texting and television. Nouns are seen as passive and unmoving, while verbs represent a go-getting attitude; the downside is that, as one writer observed, "verbing weirds language".

Try at work:

"Okay, people, we have to de-jargon this office. I want you all to blue-sky some ideas and flagpole them by noon."

Try at home:

"My wife wants me to sex it up, so I have to go to the chemist and Viagrate."

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is an Irish Times journalist