Sunday, 9 May 2010

verbing - using a noun as a verb

I’ve read a new word lately. It’s the verb to Milo. Weird. I noticed it on the label of my new tin of this delicious drink.

I presume it’s an advertising campaign hoping to cash in on the impact of verbing, the use of a noun as a verb. Some people get upset when language is altered in this way, but it’s just one one of the ways languages change and adapt to modern life. It's often the subject of discussion on the Net.

It’s an old process - Shakespeare, for instance, was a master of the art and examples abound of his use of verbs as nouns. I read somewhere that he introduced nearly three thousand new words into the language. He loved using nouns as verbs. For instance, ‘I’ll unhair thy head’ or ‘the thunder would not peace at my bidding’. Other verbal expressions first used by Shakespeare and now accepted as good English are to champion, to humor, to elbow and to rant.

Henry Bolingbroke, in the play “Richard II”, says of his enemies that he will make sure that ‘Destruction straight shall dog them at the heels’. If you have ever been followed around your house by your dog, nudging at your calf, you know the image that Shakespeare conveyed so succinctly.

However, I can’t see the new verb, to Milo, catching on. In fact when I went to the wesite on the label of the tin, the promotion of this campaign was already finished!


Lynn said...

Ah yes, Parlance, I think 'dogging' of footsteps is very evocative, but somehow 'to Milo' or 'to Vegemite' does not have the same ring to it. I do admit to 'Beroccading' myself occasionally in the mornings, but can't decide whether this action should be 'against' or 'into' the day.

parlance said...

Hmmm, Lynn, I'm rather taken with 'to Vegemite'. I think you should contact the company and suggest it to them. I try to Vegemite each day, actually.

Lynn said...

I suppose Vegemiting does have its merits. There's no ambiguity and it's kind of quirky, like a quest. Where did I put it when I last used it? More often it seems that nouns are transformed into verbs when people are lazy speakers, for example, when broadcasters speak of footballers 'goaling' as opposed to 'kicking goals'. If you can goal, supposedly you can 'point' or 'behind' as well. What do you think?

parlance said...

Lynn, I must confess I like verbing. It seems to give life to a sentence.

I'm wondering why you are right that footballers can't 'point', when they can 'goal'. And why it would seem strange to say someone had 'behinded'.

On the other hand, who'd have thought that Olympic commentators would get away with saying someone had 'podiumed'. That seems to have some acceptance, but it sounds terrible to me.

Maybe it just takes time for us to get used to new words. Maybe in a couple of years we'll all be discussing who let the team down by behinding.