Is it a problem, turning nouns into verbs?

Ever since people have been writing, they’ve been turning nouns into verbs. People who write for a living get distressed about it. People who write ‘normally’ aren’t that bothered. And eventually we absorb them into everyday language.

I’ve found that many Brits between about 30 and 50 don’t know what nouns and verbs are. That’s because some British teachers of our beloved language decided that grammar held back creativity and voted not to teach it for a few decades.

I’m not sure I agree with the renewed focus on grammar, especially as my daughter has just gone through the trauma of SATs. But just in case you missed out at school, nouns are things and verbs are doing words.

Our evolving language

Words like iron, film, email, photograph, highlight, dress and polish all sound normal as verbs now, but they’re all nouns too. We iron jeans (with an iron), film documentaries (to make a film), email our colleagues (an email) and so on. You get the picture.

Here are some relatively new verbs from nouns:

  • to inbox
  • to blog
  • to source
  • to format
  • to action
  • to progress
  • to transition
  • to reference
  • to trend

Let’s sunrise it

We might hate some of these and their ugliness now (to podium?), but in 40 years’ time no one will notice.

Having said all this, I draw the line at ‘to sunset’. It means to end, stop, finish, draw to a close. It was one client’s least favourite word of the moment.

Perhaps we could say ‘the sun’s set on that one’ in a rather poetic way. But to turn sunset into a new scrap of businesses jargon? Is nothing sacred? Well, no.

What do you think?

Are there any verbs you hate hearing? Tell us. Here’s your chance to get things off your chest.