Q: When is a noun not a noun?
A: When it’s been verbed.
A lot of verbing is going on these days. So, now we’ve got a ‘new’ part of speech. But what to call it? A veun? A nerb? A norb? A veroun? The act of verbing is called anthimeria, or so it says on Wordnik.com. (Try it on your Scrabble partner but be warned, you might get unfriended.)
In his book, The Language Instinct, Steven Pinker writes:
“Through the ages, language mavens have deplored the way English speakers convert nouns to verbs. The following verbs have all been denounced in this century: to caveat, to nuance, to dialogue, to parent, to input, to access, to showcase, to intrigue, to impact, to host, to chair, to progress, to contact… I estimate that about a fifth of English verbs were originally nouns.”
Verbing happens. Do you know anyone who has been gold-watched? Is there a project in your town that has been green-lighted?
And then there’s the verbing of names. Bryan A. Garner, a language expert and the editor in chief of Black’s Law Dictionary, says Charlie Sheen isn’t the first public figure to have his name appropriated as a verb. Remember Robert Bork? Bork came to mean to reject a nominee based on the person’s political and legal beliefs. Or how about the military jargon of Alexander Haig – Haigspeaking? And who can forget the verbification of Lorena’s skill with a knife – to Bobbitt. You may not be rushing to boilerplate these words in your next piece of writing, but verbing is not going away. It’s in our blood. Google it, if you don’t believe me. 🙂
No doubt, Charlie Sheen’s name will spawn some mind-blitzing meanings. One of which will probably not refer to poetry, even though Sheen self-published a book of poems in the 90’s, A Peace of My Mind. It was illustrated by director Adam Rifkin and given out to a small group of Charlie’s buddies. Sheen claims to have poetry in his fingertips most of the time ~ “and this includes naps”.
By Charlie Sheen
Endive, undead, unbroken,
Relax, relate, rehab,
Pursue, persuade, persist,
Per-petuate [sic] your own death
By smiling a lot.
Supply, succumb, deny — everything.
Turtle, android, pain.
Endeavor, endless, end.
Amazon has this listing for Sheen’s book of poetry:
1 used from $5,000.00
Poetry in his fingertips indeed.
Don’t get ‘sheened’ – order the paperback for $1250.00