Thursday, April 30, 2009

Verb those nouns!

When I started listening to Tim Keller's talk at TGC 2009 (on which more, here), I was chuckling within two minutes.

Keller said they're going to talk about "how to steward the Gospel." There it is: "to steward"; as in I steward, you steward, he or she stewards.... Is that going to be the new evangelical buzz-verbed-noun?

The process of verbing nouns is an old one. Many Hebrew verbs are just verbed nouns. You'd just take a noun, and put it in the Pi`el, and voila! (or, more appropriately, hinneh!) A verb is born!

We do it flat-out with a lot of words. How many times have you heard (or, worse, said) "he didn't really exegete that passage"? But "exegete" is properly a noun. So is exegesis. So you'd really have to use the clunky "he didn't really perform exegesis of that passage," or something like.

Now, I find to my horror that "exposit" (as in "I will now exposit 1 John 1:1") actually is a verb, and an old one. So I'll have to correct my instinct to recoil at its use.

The maddening thing about English is that if enough people say something stupid long enough, it makes it into a dictionary. But then again, as a man once wisely said (of made-up words), "If you go back far enough, they're all made up." True, that.

But sometimes it can be funny when it shouldn't be. When I was taking prayer requests during a class I taught at Talbot, a brother who was a pastor mentioned that they had had to funeralize several people recently. It made me think of a woman I'd heard on Oprah (no idea how I'd happened on Oprah, so don't even ask), who mentioned having been "sexualized [i.e. molested in some way] several times.)

So you can verb any noun by simply adding -ize.

But as I said, people aren't even doing that today. Keller (mercifully) didn't say that we should stewardize the Gospel, nor (worse) that we should stewardshipize it. Just steward it. Be thankful for small mercies.

I wish I had saved a letter to the editor I read in the Calendar section of the LA Times decades ago. The writer was wryly responding to some passing discussion back then (it was in the 70s or early 80s) about how it was no longer proper to say that you are filming a movie, but rather that you are videoing it, or lensing it.

He said something like "This prompted me to chair my body, lamp my room, paper my typewriter [kids, ask your parents what typewriters were], and commence letter-to-the-editoring." He had more, and it was very funny.

Of course, as I've said, my least-favorite very-popular verbed noun is impact, in the sense of have an impact on. My reaction is always the same. It's properly an intransitive, but it is used as if it were transitive. I dont care if it's in a dictionary; when someone says, "That (sermon, book, article) really impacted me," I always say (if alone) "Eww!" Or perhaps, "I'm so sorry."

Because a wisdom tooth can be impacted; stools, bowels, and colons can be impacted.

But, properly, people aren't.

Or — merciful heavens — shouldn't be.

52 comments:

NoLongerBlind said...

I once felt impacted in an elevator; couldn't wait to get disenthralled!

Terry Rayburn said...

Dan,

I share your "ewws". But most don't see it as important, and would figure we must have been neuroticed somewhere along the line :)

DJP said...

I understandingate what you're wording, brother.

Rileysowner said...

I did a little searching and Merriam-Webster Dictionary give steward as both a noun and a verb. To steward is what a steward does.

DJP said...

It will not be in my dictionary.

DJP said...

Actually, two responses:

1. I will not dictionary that word.

2. To illustrate my point, if enough idiots like me used dictionary as a verb in enough venues, it would eventually... well, be dictionaried!

The Squirrel said...

Dan,

You have concepted for me what I have priorly inconceivableized. I grateful you.

~Squirrel

James David Beebe, Jr. said...

"Google" is a useful verbed noun.

I was disappointed to learn that dictionaries have conceded to the abuse of the word "apocalypse" as world-wide catastrophe.

UinenMaia said...

That was a brilliantly refreshing palate cleanser for the morning. And I say that as someone who is standing valiantly against the tide of verbitating the noun "disrespect". If I had hackles, they'd be raised every time I heard it.

On the other hand, after all the issues this year, we've turned the acronym for our state standardized tests into a verb, and I never even batted an eye. Perhaps it's subjective. I'd seek a second opinion, but 'tis not repeatable in polite company.

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Oh Dan, Dan...

You don't know how happy this makes me... You have good ideas and good grammar. :0)

Hold fast the form of sound words...

Julie

DJP said...

Thanks, I try.

And I credit my mom. I am so tired of whiny, never-grew-up kids who complain about their parents — not me. Mom would tell me to look up a word, or correct me if I misspoke. I don't remember chafing even at the time, and have appreciated it ever since.

My kids will attest: the tradition continues.

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Hurray for mothers!

I find myself turning into mine, in many ways. And in this way, it has paid off in spades.

One of my sons is deaf in one ear, and very hearing impaired in the other.


And you'd never know it when you hear him speak. His enunciation is clear... well, as clear as any 10 year old boy. And his vocabulary soars above most of his peers.

That's both a tribute to his perseverance and to nit-picky parents.

Thanks for allowing my brief "bragging mom" moment.

And now, back to your regular programming...

Julie

Kim said...

The maddening thing about English is that if enough people say something stupid long enough, it makes it into a dictionary.Haha. That is so true!

chrish said...

I facebooked my friends to see if they knew what you meant, but in the end I had to google some more examples....

Solameanie said...

I'd probably drive you nuts, Dan. I am happy to be grammatically correct when I am on the air. I am happy to be grammatically correct when I am in print for a formal publication. However, in informal dialogue (or comment posting), I reserve the right to break as many grammar rules as possible, especially using Southernisms. I kind of liken it to relaxing in my recliner with a cup of tea.

Terry Rayburn said...

solameanie wrote, "I reserve the right to break as many grammar rules as possible, especially using Southernisms"

Ditto on the Southernisms. I defy anyone to come up with a good one-word substitute for "fixin'", as in "I'm fixin' to post a comment."

It can't be done, and still capture the nuances of intention, immediacy, brevity, and clarity of "fixin'".

Sir Aaron said...

You're right, of course, about the improper use of word tenses and other grammar violations.

However, the first thought that occured to me when I read this post was that you have your fair share of pet peeves. I would think that since northern California is the home of Ebonics, that by now you would have modified your use of language to be relevant to the culture. ;)


Note to self: Whenever talking to Dan, don't use poor grammar and especially don't do so while smacking your lips and chewing gum

Terry Rayburn said...

By the way, I used to be appalled at the use [usually by youths] of the present tense in relating a past-tense narrative.

E.g., "So he SAYS to me...blah, blah...and then he GOES to the store, and so I SAY...blah, blah...and so we WATCH the movie..."

Then I found out that this was common in New Testament narrative, especially by Mark.

KVJ, and the Greek, of course, reflect this present tense, but modern translations usually corrupt it by using the past tense and then they "asterisk" it (if I may verbalize a noun).

Mesa Mike said...

Nooo...! Don't Bushificate them verbs!

sem said...

Mesa Mike-

One word. Strategery.

I think for one day I'm going to post all over the internet and somehow work the word verification into the comment. As bad as some of the grammar and spelling is out here sometimes, would anyone notice or even noccing?

Rachael Starke said...

Our former pastor used the unfortunate "impacted" all the time.

It was a sign.

I'm emailing this to a few friends....

Heeeeeey....

Mesa Mike said...

I meant nouns, not verbs...
But you all knew that, right?

David Kjos said...

Just because "exposit" has been used for a long time doesn't make it right. (Never mind the grammar of that sentence.) Exposition is the exposing of the meaning of the text, correct? Therefore, wouldn't it be correct to say "expose the text"? I prefer "give (or 'bring,' or 'present,' but definitely not 'share') the exposition."

Possible options for "exegete": exegize, exegized, exegizing; exegate, exegated,exegating. As long as we're making up words, we can at least try to make sense, can't we?

Mesa Mike said...

> Possible options for "exegete":

In many cases, a more proper word is "eisegete."

David Kjos said...

Eisegizinate!

Solameanie said...

Nothing sounds so good to the human ear than a split infinitive. And on another "note," (pun intended) how could we forget Paul McCartney's famous ode to the Chicago Manual of Style . . .

"In this ever changing world in which we live in . . . "

"Live and Let Die" just wouldn't be the same without that line.

David said...

Your post reminded me of a t-shirt ...

http://www.zazzle.com/verbing_nouns_tshirt-235879660354223527


--Dave (a lurkerizer and very, very rare comment postinger)

Stefan said...

I don't know what the verb form of "steward" should be, etymologically speaking, but my gut would probably fall on "stew."

Saying "steward the Gospel" is probably a lot better than saying "stew" the Gospel, at least.

jmb said...

I so agree with you about "impacted." Other pet peeves: "very unique," "a myriad of," and, of course, the isolated "hopefully." And Mr. Rayburn: Teens (and, increasingly, adults) don't even bother to use verbs anymore ("So he goes..." or "So she says...", etc.). They say, for instance, "So he's like, 'When is it?' And I'm like, 'About eight.'"

Stefan said...

Noah Webster's original dictionary gives this for "Steward," after the nominal senses:

"STEWARD, v.t. To manage as a steward. [Not in use.]"

(Courtesy e-Sword.)

jmb said...

Just one more pet peeve: The overuse of the word "literally.": "I literally got to work at 5 AM today." Or, worse, "My eyes were literally glued to the TV" (and we all know how painful that can be). Sean Hannity is one of the worst culprits in this regard.

DJP said...

Actually and very ironically, the first person I think of who uses "literally" non-literally is --

John MacArthur.

And I don't mean that he says he's interpreting literally and he isn't. I mean he says, "and the guy was literally flayed alive" — when the guy was not literally flayed alive.

Jane said...

I first ran across "funeralize" on a black gospel radio program. The DJ always spent a lot of time on announcements of interest to the the black church-going community, and mentioned special services, and so forth. He also gave obituaries, and always mentioned when the person would be "funeralized." (He also used the construction "on tomorrow," which I've never heard anywhere else.) It was absolutely consistent. I always wondered if it was a colloquialism within that subculture.

Lisa Nunley said...

Laughing so hard...
can't stop

My 15 year old son always corrects my use of "I'm nauseous"

He says, "Mom, when you use it that way, you are not actually telling people that you feel like you are going to throw up. You are telling them that YOU smell bad. You are actually 'nauseated' which could potentially make you smell bad if it goes any further than that."He also has mentioned that the word "snuck" is not a real word. It was just used so much that it made its way into the dictionary. The actual word is "sneaked." I still use snuck because it is so ingrained in my personal dictionary and saying sneaked just seems... wrong.

Rachael Starke said...

Lisa -

The other one is "healthy."

As in, "Grass-fed beef is/are more healthy than corn-fed beef."

Um, well, probably, but only when they're alive.

threegirldad said...

This post reminds of Strictly Speaking: Will America be the Death of English?, and A Civil Tongue, both by Edwin Newman. There were times when I laughed so hard that I almost couldn't catch my breath.

As Newman pointed out (in the first book, iirc), we don't just -ize words, we also -wise them -- "though, if it comes to a choice between the two, de -ize have it."

Then there was the time that I heard Charles Swindoll mention that he and office staff member had stood in the hall recently for a lengthy period "and just related to one another." Ummmm.....

Herding Grasshoppers said...

You haven't hit on my pet peeve yet... the misuse of "super".

As in, "I saw this super cute guy..."

*eyes roll*

I've been meaning to write a rant of my own. Now you've inspired me :0)

Julie

Herding Grasshoppers said...

PS Do you read any Bill Bryson?

I think you'd like him.

DJP said...

Doesn't ring a bell.

Solameanie said...

Where's our friend Wordsmith when you need her...

threegirldad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Herding Grasshoppers said...

His travel books are hilarious, but I think you'd particularly enjoy his books on the English language. He's lived both in the U.S. and the U.K. and has interesting perspective.

Julie

threegirldad said...

Curses! Foiled by the Blogger bug!

The Mother Tongue 

There now...

Michelle said...

I love asking sticklerizers how to spell what must be one of the most misspelled words in the dictionary, the transitive verb "supersede".

Somehow I don't think I would have caught you out, Dan.

JTW said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JTW said...

"The maddening thing about English is that if enough people say somethingstupid long enough, it makes it into a dictionary. But then again, as a man once wisely said (of made-up words), "If you go back far enough, they're all made up." True, that."Dan, I hate to correct you, but the proper phrase would be "Troo Dat".

Susan said...

Solameanie said: "However, in informal dialogue (or comment posting), I reserve the right to break as many grammar rules as possible, especially using Southernisms."

Speaking of Southernisms, I just had a flashback of playing some dictionary board game with a bunch of college friends in our dormitory's conference room years ago. The purpose of the game was to pick a word from the pile, come up with fake definitions (and not let the other players know that they're fake, since only one mystery player per turn receives the real definition), and vote on the definition that seems to match the word best. When the word "vanner" came up, two of the guys came up with essentially the same definition (no foolin'):

vanner: the Southern way of saying Vanna White's name.

Mike Riccardi said...

Susan,

At the time, you were balderdashing,

wordsmith said...

Hey, Solameanie -

Thanks for the heads up. Late to the party as usual (ahem! *some* of us were busy working all day, after all), and I see that someone has already beat me to the punch w/"Mother Tongue" by Bryson. That book, along with "Eats, Shoots, and Leaves" has got to be recommended reading for anyone who's appalled / amused by the way English has been used and abused throughout its history.

Offhand, I can't think of any particularly egregious verbed nouns, but there certainly are plenty of other irksome usages that people insist on perpetuating, like "irregardless" or "the general gist" of something.

Makes me want to tear my hair out, or at least refer such offenders to the Society for the Elimination and Eradication of Redundancy.

Mesa Mike said...

> ... refer such offenders to the
> Society for the Elimination and
> Eradication of Redundancy.

Such a society would be redundant, since there is already the Department of Redundancy Department.

Susan said...

1. I've always known that my grammar ain't so hot. Let me try rephrasing that definition:

vanner: Vanna White's name as pronounced by a Southerner.

There. Much better.

2. No, Mike R., my two guy friends were balderdashing--I think the rest of us were hilariousized! :D

3. And in high school, one of my teachers (Amer. Hist. or American Gov't., I forget which) told us that Warren Harding coined the term "normalcy", and it stuck. Wonder if any of the Founding Fathers ever came up with new words that still exist....

Susan said...

Oh dear, I just went to Pyro for the first time today, and it seems that Phil's word really hit the jackpot:

"Sissification"!!!

LOL to the nth power!!!!