Re: Verbing Nouns

Subject: Re: Verbing Nouns
From: John Kohl <sasjqk -at- UNX -dot- SAS -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 26 Feb 1997 15:01:47 GMT

In article <199702261359 -dot- IAA20146 -at- closer -dot- scescape -dot- net>, "George F. Hayhoe"
<gfhayhoe -at- SCESCAPE -dot- NET> writes:
|> David Orr noted:
|>
|> <<I newspapered while I Mondayed and coffeed yesterday. The article said
|> Madeleine Albright Kissingered recently as she diplomatted while she
|> Chinaed.>>
|>
|> It's either the scariest thing about our language or almost mystical, but
|> isn't it intriguing that the sentence above is entirely comprehensible?
|> Verbing some nouns gives language extraordinary compression.
|>

Yes, it does. For example, I found it more concise to say that
"variable X is VDEFINEd" than to say "variable X is passed to the
VDEFINE service." However, this poses problems for translators, because
in most languages you can't change parts of speech as easily as you can
in English, and a translator won't necessarily know that "VDEFINEd" =
"passed to the VDEFINE service" unless the writer tells him/her.

In the above paragraph, I suppose you could translate "Mondayed" into
German as "habe...gemontagt". But "coffeed" would have to be something
like "gekaffeet," which looks very odd and is nearly unpronounceable
because I believe the "roots" of German past participles always end in
consonants, not vowels. There -are- prefixes in German that change root
words from one part of speech to another, but sometimes those prefixes
also change the meaning of the root word somewhat. (e.g., the prefix
"ver-")

Here's an interesting example of "flexible" parts of speech in English:
At the software company that I work for, developers like to use the term
"latering" (or LATERing) to mean "enter a value of 'LATER' (i.e., we'll
fix this in a later release) for an entry in our bug-tracking system."
So the adverb "later" is used as a gerund (or as a verb, in other
contexts). But of course this is internal jargon, so our translators
don't have to deal with it.


John Kohl

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