The Return of Verbifications

It’s been a year since The Curmudgeon has presented the latest fashions in turning nouns into verbs but he continues collecting prize specimens, like a nine-year-old boy collecting bugs, and it’s once again time to share. (And to commiserate with his computer’s spellcheck function, which groans with displeasure every time its owner assembles one of these pieces.)

Throughout the country, traditional, mainstream-type Republicans, even those who’ve held elected office for years, are being challenged in party primaries by tea party types who believe the incumbents are traitors to their cause. Such a situation was shaping up in Tennessee, where mainstream Republicans in the legislature, concerned that the state may not have enough revenue, are rebuffing an attempt by the Koch brothers and Grover Norquist to reduce taxes. As a result, some of those moderate Republicans may face primary challengers from the right.

Oh, if only the online publication Politico could have said it that way – but no, it had to report that

Recalcitrant Republican legislators may even be primaried by repeal backers if they stand in the way, one conservative source working on the issue said.

That’s right: it wasn’t good enough to say they might face primary challenges. No: they may be “primaried.”

When big stars make fleeting appearances in movies or television programs those performances are often referred to as a “cameo appearance.” When a Philadelphia newscaster who is neither a big star nor a real newscaster was set to appear briefly on a network television series a local newspaper boasted

Ukee Washington to cameo on CBS’ ‘The Crazy Ones’

The guy was absolutely nuts yet strangely effective.

The guy was absolutely nuts yet strangely effective.

Doris Kearns Goodwin is a capable pop historian. The Curmudgeon has read a few of her books and enjoyed them. Except for a plagiarism episode a few years back she’s highly regarded, and recently, she participated in a University of Chicago forum hosted by David Axelrod, one of The Curmudgeon’s least-favorite Obama sycophants. The subject was why Obama didn’t take greater command of the bully pulpit, like Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Goodwin observed that once upon a time, when the president wrote a letter to a newspaper, it was printed verbatim in newspapers around the country and turned into a pamphlet as well.

If only she could have put it that simply.

Lincoln would write a letter to a newspaper and it would be reprinted word for word and then pamphletized.

Pamphletized. If the historian can’t do better than that, maybe she should go back to plagiarizing.

People who raise money engage in fund-raising – or fundraising, if you prefer (The Curmudgeon does not). They are fund-raisers – or fundraisers, if you prefer (The Curmudgeon does not). They do not, however – they do not – “fundraise.” So The Curmudgeon’s blood was set to boiling recently when he encountered the headline

Hillary Clinton to Fundraise for Marjorie Margolies

While The Curmudgeon suspects that the headline-writer is beyond redemption, he is relatively confident that Mrs. Clinton knows better. He also thanks loyal reader (and first subscriber, way back when) Miss Kate for bringing the whole “fundraise” abuse to this attention.

A Philadelphia Inquirer columnist wrote a thoughtful piece about the decline of horse-racing as a popular pastime, and among his reveries he wrote about how well-dressed the horse-racing crowd used to be, noting that

There, in the decades between the world wars, large, lively crowds, mostly male and hatted…

That’s right. They weren’t simply “wearing hats.” No, they were “hatted.”

Dang, The Curmudgeon hatted reading that.

Generous with everyone, it seems, except ex-boyfriends.

Generous with everyone, it seems, except ex-boyfriends.

We all know singer Taylor Swift, and those who reside in the Philadelphia area know the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, often referred to by the acronym “CHOP.” The connection between the two? Ms. Swift made a donation to the hospital – but not just any old donation. Let the Philadelphia Daily News headline tell the story:

Taylor Swift gifts CHOP with $50,000

That’s right: she didn’t give CHOP a gift of $50,000; she gifted the hospital.

Such headlines should be CHOPped.

But the Daily News isn’t alone on this one: describing a large charitable donation, a Pittsburgh Business Times headline read “Hillman gifts CMU $5M for BrainHub.”

We forgive her this trespass.

We forgive her this trespass.

And then there’s Ms. Mary-Chapin Carpenter and her song “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her,” in which she sings

She makes his coffee, she makes his bed
She does the laundry, she keeps him fed
When she was twenty-one she wore her mother’s lace
She said “forever” with a smile upon her face
She does the car-pool, she PTAs

She…PTAs? Serious verbification, but song lyrics are like poetry and poets have license for such things, so The Curmudgeon will give Mary-Chapin a pass on this one.

But be careful, girlfriend!

In an otherwise entertaining article in Philadelphia magazine about how the act of shopping at a Wegmans supermarket seems to bring out the worst in people, the writer explained that she tries to avoid falling into the same behavioral trap when she shops there.

But I already work pretty hard on being a kinder, gentler soul. I yoga on Wednesdays.

That’s right: she doesn’t take yoga or do yoga or perform yoga. No, she yogas.

And where there are yogas there must be boo-boos, right?

We wear them and we talk about them. We put them on our boo-boos and we refer to them metaphorically as short-term solutions to long-term problems. The Curmudgeon is writing, of course, about Band-Aids. “She put a Band-Aid on her daughter’s cut.” “Serving hot lunches at a soup kitchen is a Band-Aid for a much greater problem.” But now, we have a new use, as presented in a Milwaukee Sentinel Journal article about what happens when poor people who go to free clinics for health care need the kind of care that free clinics can’t provide:

The patient lives with it, ends up in an emergency room, or they come back here and we try to Band-Aid it the best we can to deal with it.

A new verb: Band-Aid. They “Band-Aid it.”

And it’s not a new verb only in Milwaukee, either. When the city of Philadelphia finally reached a labor agreement with its blue-collar workers union after four years of negotiations – yes, four years – the new six-year contract meant that the whole process would need to start anew in two years, leading one public figure to note that

That it’s only for two years means that the labor situation has only been Band-Aided.

Band-Aided.

The New Yorker offered a kind eulogy for one of its long-time cartoonists, a man who focused most of his work on addressing themes of power in the public arena.

Drawing with a simple, shapely line, Barsotti [note: the artist] employed a set of recurring characters that seemed inoffensive, apolitical, even sweet – adorable hounds, therapized kings.

Therapized kings. Kings who have been therapized.

Right.

As The Curmudgeon works on this piece, he is writing, or typing, on a keyboard. He is not keyboarding. He is never, ever keyboarding.

He also realizes that in the long run, he’s going to lose on this one.

And here’s another he’s already lost. An article about proper care of knives explains

So once you’re done cleaning, be sure to towel the knife off by hand.

That’s right: don’t dry it with a towel. “Towel the knife off…” Of course, The Curmudgeon has a problem with the dangling modifier, too, but that’s a whole different subject and you definitely don’t want to get him started on dangling modifiers.

Death on a plate.

Death on a plate.

The person who’s in charge of luring tourists and conventions to Philadelphia was waxing poetic about the charms of the Philadelphia cheesesteak – a charm that has always eluded The Curmudgeon. While trying to explain that the cheesesteak is no ordinary sandwich, she told the Inquirer about the cheesesteak-making prowess of Philadelphia’s best-known restaurateur:

When Stephen Starr opened Barclay Prime in 2004, he created a $100 cheesesteak to show how our Philly brand could be upscaled.

Yes, he upscaled – upscaled – cheap meat on a spongy roll.

Fortune magazine, the gift that keeps on giving, published an article about MasterCard and its CEO. His mission, the article concluded, was two-fold: introduce more technology into his company’s offerings and persuade people currently using cash to pay for their purchases with plastic instead. The market for the latter, the article noted, is especially great outside the U.S. where, as the magazine explains, among

…the 2.5 billion people in the world who are unbanked or ‘underbanked’

Two observations here: first, both verbifications are inexcusable; and second, note how the article’s writer put “underbanked” within quotation marks, as if he knew it was a terrible word to use yet, inadvertently, suggests “unbanked” is somehow more acceptable.

He’s wrong on both counts. Perhaps he needs to bank such mistakes on an error sheet so he can avoid making the same mistakes.

The Philadelphia Inquirer told the tale of a toy store that’s closing its doors, a victim of internet competition and some of its owner’s bad business decisions. Specifically, the owner chose to steer away from electronic toys:

We never changed the mix we started with…It was powered by kids’ imaginations rather than just plugging in or batterying up.

Yes, he said that: “Batterying up.”

Oy.

The Curmudgeon is not alone in his disdain for verbification. After Chuck Todd’s debut as host of Meet the Press, the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank wrote that “Among many talents exhibited by Chuck Todd in the days since he replaced David Gregory as host of “Meet the Press” is his ability to turn a proper noun into a verb.”

 “I’m not trying to Horatio Alger,” Todd told my Post colleague Ben Terris.

The Curmudgeon's second-favorite lawyer.

The Curmudgeon’s second-favorite lawyer.

It turns out you can even verbify words that aren’t words. Two of The Curmudgeon’s favorite public officials are Supreme Court justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan. A while back The Curmudgeon caught a program on C-SPAN (yes, The Curmudgeon is one of THOSE people) in which Justice Kagan was speaking in tribute to Justice Ginsburg. Kagan was insightful, charming, and funny, and she was just starting to talk about Justice Ginsburg’s role in advancing the status of women in this country – ladies, if it’s a right or an opportunity that you’ve had that your mother didn’t, it was almost certainly because of Justice Ginsburg’s work before she came onto the bench – and Kagan spoke puckishly (a word that is an adjectivization, but since the source word is 400 years old and the adjective dates back to 1867, The Curmudgeon is going to give himself a pass to use it) of Justice Ginsburg’s use of the word “pathmarking” in about thirty different opinions. It was clearly intended to be used like “trail-blazing,” but Kagan stopped, gave her audience a knowing look, and then said, “Which we all know is not actually a word.” So this is an exception: if it’s good enough for justices Ginsburg and Kagan, it’s good enough for The Curmudgeon.

 

 

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Comments

  • Peaches Shimmerdeep  On June 12, 2016 at 10:11 am

    Fun to read this! I am guilty of “verbification” at times, but just as often, it grates on me. The difference for me is on the impact on communication – is it pithier, clearer, or more amusing OR is it stilted, condescending, and falsely intellectual? A colleague insists on using the term “dialogueing”, which makes my skin crawl. Lawyer-ese. Don’t you mean talking? Having a conversation? Engaging in a dialogue? I have noticed that most people I encounter who talk about “dialogueing” are really much more into “monologueing”. Oh, the pretension! On the other hand, I’m stuck with ” Onboarding”, which is even a department name for what used to be good, old- fashioned employee orientation. Keep writing, Mudgie! Keep us thoughtful and honest!

  • foureyedcurmudgeon  On June 12, 2016 at 10:37 am

    Yes, I suspected you were probably stuck with “onboarding.”

    I also think it’s necessary to distinguish between spoken and written English. Verbifying is just another form of the shorthand ways we sometimes talk. I don’t love it, don’t even like it, and try not to do it, but I suspect I do it at least occasionally. You have seen me roll my eyes when I hear someone do it – in fact, you have goaded me with it at times. I draw the line at using it in writing. To me, that’s either laziness or an attempt to create a professional jargon that says to others “Look, my professional requires its own language.”

  • Peaches Shimmerdeep  On June 12, 2016 at 10:56 am

    Agree! Maybe sometime we can talk more (NOT DIALOGUE) about it. 😉

Trackbacks

  • […] – the act of turning a noun into a verb – on a number of occasions (here, here, here, and here). Despite the passion with which he expresses his objection to these transgressions, they […]

  • By Vindication! | The Four-Eyed Curmudgeon on September 14, 2018 at 6:01 am

    […] He knows, first, that this is correct, because it’s the way he was taught – back in the days when there was a right and a wrong and no one – no one – was even suggesting the other way.  But he also knows, second, that this ultimately will be a losing battle, like those who insist on impacting upon and who reject use of the serial comma and who persist in using those damn verbifications. […]

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