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“Verbing” and “Nouning”

Bill Watterson (the creator of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, about a boy and his imaginary friend / stuffed tiger) had Calvin say in 1993 that “verbing weirds language.” “To verb,” in that context, is to turn a noun, such as picture, into a verb: picture. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.


  • You should glass your back porch; that way you can coffee out there.
  • I promise to calendar our meeting next time.
  • I’m going to lavender all the folded sheets so they smell good.


Language is a living thing. We are accustomed to many verbs that once existed solely as nouns: phone, clutter, access, impact, and others. If you use social media, you might friend someone. It is when these alterations are unfamiliar that they become jarring (or funny, sometimes), as in “Don’t forget to pee the dog.” To lavender the sheets is clear enough; it just sounds wrong. And I won’t be coffeeing anytime soon, as much as I love coffee.


The opposite of verbing is nouning, which is when you turn a verb into a noun, with sometimes appalling consequences: “Let me calendar that.” It sounds wrong every time I hear it. The unfortunate truth, however, is that most examples of verbing and nouning are only incorrect until the moment they become normal, as in “Was it a nice drive?” and “Picture our home, right here.” Sigh.

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