III. Reading Comprehension
Mothers and fathers used to bring up children: now they parent. Critics used to review
plays: now they critique them. Athletes podium, executives flipchart, and almost everybody
Googles. Watch out—you’ve been verbed.
The English language is in a constant state of flux. New words are formed and old ones
fall into disuse. But no trend has been more obtrusive in recent years than the changing of
nouns into verbs. It is found in all areas of life, though some are more productive than others.
Financiers are never lacking in ingenuity: Investec recently forecast that “Better-balanced
autumn ranges should allow Marks & Spencer to anniversary tougher comparisons”—whatever
that may mean. Politics has come up with “to handbag” (a tribute to Lady Thatcher) and “to
doughnut”—that is, to sit in a ring around a colleague making a parliamentary announcement.
New technology is fertile ground, partly because it is constantly seeking names for things
which did not previously exist: we “text” from our mobiles, “bookmark” websites, “inbox” our
e-mail contacts and “friend” our acquaintances on Facebook—only, in some cases, to
“defriend” them later. “Blog” had scarcely arrived as a noun before it was adopted as a verb,
first intransitive and then transitive. Sport is another ready source. “Rollerblade,” “skateboard,” “snowboard,” and “zorb” have
all graduated from names of equipment to actual activities. Football referees used to book
players, or send them off: now they “card” them.
Verbing—or denominalization, as it is known to grammarians—is not new. Steven Pinker,
in his book The Language Instinct (1994), points out that “easy conversion of nouns to verbs
has been part of English grammar for centuries; it is one of the processes that make English
English.” Elizabethan writers revelled in it: Shakespeare’s Duke of York, in Richard II (1595),
says,“Grace me no grace, nor uncle me no uncle,” and the 1552 Book of Common Prayer
includes a service “commonly called the Churching of Women.”
There is a difference today, says Robert Groves, one of the editors of the new Collins
Dictionary of the English Language. “Potential changes in our language are picked up and
repeated faster than they would have been in the past, when print was the only mass
communication medium, and fewer people were literate.” So coinages can be trialed around the
world—and greenlighted—as soon as they are visioned.
What’s the driving force behind it? “Looking for short cuts, especially if you have to say
something over and over again, is a common motivator,” says Groves. So fund-raisers say “to
gift-aid” rather than repeat “donate using gift aid” all day long, and CIA agents looking for
suspects to kidnap find “to rendition” handier than “to subject to extraordinary rendition.”
Sometimes the results are ridiculous—notably when verbs are minted from nouns which
were formed from verbs in the first place. To say “Let’s conference” instead of “Let’s confer,”
“I’ll signature it” instead of “I’ll sign it,” or “they statemented” instead of “they stated,” makes
the speaker seem either ignorant or pretentious. Using an elaborate verb when there is a far
simpler alternative—such as “dialogue” for “talk”—has the same effect.
Some lovers of the language deplore the whole business of verbing (Benjamin Franklin
called it “awkward and abominable” in a letter to Noah Webster, the lexicographer, in 1789);
others see it as proof of a vibrant linguistic culture. Certain words seem to bring people out
in a rash—among them “auctioning,” “tasking,” “impacting,” “efforting,” “accessing,”
“progressing,” and “transitioning.” Often, though, the dictionary yields surprising precedents:
“impact” was used as a verb in the 17th century, and “task” in the 16th. Other verbs have
managed to escape linguistic ghettoes: “to access” was recognized by the Oxford English
Dictionary over 20 years ago, but only as a computing term. Still others acquire new meanings:
“to reference,” originally meaning “to supply with references,” has now become a near-twin of
“to refer to.” Not every coinage passes into general use, and with luck “to incest” will quietly fade
away. But as for trying to end verbing altogether, forget it. You’d simply be Canuting.
【Group】67. What is the main idea of the passage?
(A) English has a long tradition of changing nouns to verbs.
(B) Changing nouns to verbs is a popular trend in English today.
(C) Verbing is a natural process of language change and should not be resisted.
(D) English is now using nouns as verbs more often than any other languages.