Remember when Google was the name of a search engine? Before it became the go-to verb that basically means “to search the internet.” Or maybe not even the internet. My son is still chuckling over hearing a friend say he was going to “google the dictionary.”
I know English is a living, fast-changing language. That’s cool. I like the way words change their meaning and new words are constantly brought into being. Only a couple of days ago we coined the word Chanelf: n. house-elf with a penchant for designer socks. I’m not expecting to see it in the Revised Oxford anytime soon, but it perfectly describes my boy-child, who has been particularly industrious around the house lately and whose knitted foot covering of choice comes from Polo by Ralph Lauren.
But quite a lot of verbing bothers me. When someone says “let’s dialogue this” instead of “let’s talk about it”, it feels as though language is being used as a barrier — or worse — a weapon, instead of a tool to communicate.
Particularly disturbing is re-verbing words that already have a verb form. A few years ago I heard a woman on television describe her neighbour (who, it turned out, had killed a couple of people and buried them under his house) as “difficult to conversate with.” She obviously knew the word “conversation” and worked backward from that. I’ve since heard conversate used again, along with “signatured” (as in he signatured the document) and believe it or not, “motivationalised.”
But perhaps the case of verbing which bothered me the most is “versing”. Throughout the (many) years my son played soccer, I had to endure players, parents and coaches talk about the team they were versing. That poor, innocent preposition “versus” was mangled into a verb that no amount of patient (and not so patient) explanation from me could ever dissuade people from using.
This post was written as part of the 3 Days, 3 Quotes challenge that Mish at Mishunderstood invited me to take part in. My three quotes all come from the much-loved comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson. You can see Day One here.
Part of the challenge is to invite other bloggers to take part. Rather than invite anyone specifically — I know we’re all pretty busy — if anyone does want to contribute to the challenge, please feel free.