What do these words and phrases have in common? Friend, Google, TiVo, log in, contact, barbecue, unlike, concept, text, Photoshop, leverage, party, Xerox, reference, architect, parent, improv, transition, diligence, host, chair, gift, heart, impact?
They’ve all been declared–by someone,
somewhere, whether a usage expert or just a self-appointed language
cop–“not verbs.” It doesn’t matter whether they’re useful, interesting,
or entertaining as verbs; to many people, if a word began its life as a
noun, then “verbing” it (like I did there) is just wrong.
This visceral reaction is the motivating force behind the recently popular loginisnotaverb.com, one man’s impassioned plea against this kind of verbing. The site’s elaborate (and funny) arguments against login’s
verb status really boil down to a simple denial. “I will repeat the
important part for clarity: ‘login’ is not a verb. It’s simply not,” he
The history of
English, however, suggests that the language is remarkably flexible in
terms of what can be verbed. Almost any word can be drafted to serve as a
verb, even words we think of as eternal and unchanging, stuck in their
more traditional roles. It’s easy to think of scenarios where “She me’d him too much and they broke up” and “My boss tomorrowed the meeting again” make sense.