Verbing nouns

rogersgeorge on April 21st, 2012

In English we have a habit of taking apparent prefixes and suffixes off a word to make a new word. It’s called back formation. So we have an invite when we used to have an invitation. Grammarians tend to disfavor this, but English is littered with these forms, so we curmudgeons may as well learn to live with them.

Another bad habit that is practiced quite a lot is to make a verb out of a noun. For example, “text.” Is it a noun or a verb? Remember the song, “Matchmaker Matchmaker, catch me a catch”? I remember someone once criticizing this habit when we have perfectly good ways to say something already. They were writing about using “office” as a verb, as in “Where do you office?”

I am slightly embarrassed to confess that I joined this club today with my own neologism. First a little context. A geek joke is running around in the texting community, in which instead of (ahem) texting “K” (short for “okay”), the person texts “potassium.” Get it? (Okay, for my non-chemist non-geek readers, the chemical symbol for the element potassium is K. Hence the joke.)

It probably won’t last long because texters are notoriously frugal with their keystrokes, but I like the joke, and I used it on someone the other day. Then I texted a friend who was in on the joke that I had potassiumed someone.

Bananas are said to be a good source of potassium

Mea culpa.

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