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Useful Information No.10: The verbing of nouns

Some people deplore the use of nouns to create verbs. They shudder when they hear or see expressions such as, “The museum has decided to deaccession its collection of Benin bronzes.”

Such practice has a long history. A loan is ‘a thing that is borrowed’; yet people have long been accustomed to hearing, “I will loan you this pen, but I’ll not give it to you.” It is but a short step to writing, “A sloppy pass in extra time gifted Crystal Palace an easy goal”; and here indeed, ‘gifted’ has more power than ‘gave’ because ‘gifted’ implies the laying out of a present gift-wrapped for its lucky recipient.

Commerce is the main source of this practice. “Minute that, please, John” is more succinct and effective than “Include that in the Minutes, please, John.” Who would say, “Why don’t we take the position that we hold the high moral ground here?” when she could say, “Why don’t we position ourselves on the high moral ground here?”

So it’s a matter of degree. Some verb-forms are grotesque. Some are ineffective: who could tell what was meant by, “She decided to gaslight him,” without an explanation? But the practice is here to stay; it is small-minded to oppose it. As a wise man once opined, having been called on to pronounce on the propriety of the usage, “There ain’t no noun that can’t be verbed.”