Verbing and Nouning



I recently watched a New Yorker video featuring one of their copy editors, Mary Norris, who is also known as the Comma Queen.  She talked about the verbing of nouns a term which in itself breaks the rule of not using nouns as verbs.  This rule or dictum is enforced by the New Yorker in the case of some nouns such as impact.  She states that the New Yorker will not allow its authors to use impact as a verb. For example, I found this dictum about not verbing impacted my writing.

I’ve thought about the verbing of nouns some and have written about it some on other occasions.  My conclusion is that I don’t like it, but occasionally find myself using the bastard words.

I am all in favor of keeping the English language alive, but I see little need to take the lazy way out which is what I think much verbing is.

Let’s look at one of the examples Mary uses:  She suggests that writing something impacted you is a less satisfactory way of saying something had an impact on you.  I agree.  Verbed nouns grate on my ears much as the word “moist” does on other ears.  Accessorize, prioritize, federalize, incentivize.  Ewww.

I’m trying to think of an example of an acceptable mutation.  Hmm, I wonder if mutate is a verbing of mutation.  There, maybe I thought of one word that might be acceptable,  since to mutate is to make a specific kind of change.

Uh oh.

I looked both words up.  Turns out mutation is the nouning of the verb, mutate.  Oh no.   whole new group of words to examine for okayness.  This is going to keep me busy for quite a while.


I’ve come to the conclusion that if we didn’t noun verbs, our language would become cumbersome, indeed.  For example, a runner is a person who runs.  It’s a lot easier just to noun that verb rather than affix the clause, “a person who…” does whatever,” ad inifinitum.

While this usage seems perfectly acceptable to me, I still cringe at the verbing of nouns.

As Whitman wrote, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” $133.42

Author: mastout

I'm a writer and poet who dabbles in photography. I'm interested in many things and love to learn new stuff.

6 thoughts on “Verbing and Nouning”

  1. Ok then. This was interesting reading, and made me realize just how much of a true writer you are. I ramble on, probably verbing nouns and nouning verbs all the time without a moment’s thought. My sweet friend, you are definitely a grammar nerd! Loved it.

    Liked by 2 people

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